Best Smart DNS proxy services

Best Smart DNS proxy services

If you’ve been searching for online services to unblock geographically restricted web content, you may have noticed a few mentions given to something called a smart DNS proxy. In fact, some companies (VPN providers included) offer this feature in parallel to other services, while others sell it exclusively.

So what exactly is smart DNS, how does it unblock websites and which services are worth considering? To answer these questions, we’ve written a useful guide and have included a list of the best smart DNS proxy providers available today.

Summary

Provider Features Price Links
1 OverPlay
  • Offers VPN
  • Custom apps
  • 256-bit keys
$4.95
/month
Visit Provider
Read Review
2 CactusVPN
  • Offers VPN
  • Torrent-friendly
  • Custom apps
  • 256-bit keys
$4.99
/month
Visit Provider
Read Review
3 PureVPN
  • Torrent-friendly
  • Custom apps
  • 256-bit keys
  • Smart DNS
  • Live chat
$9.95
/month
Visit Provider
Read Review
4 ibVPN
  • Torrent-friendly
  • Zero logs
  • Smart DNS
  • Custom apps
  • Free trial
$4.95
/month
Visit Provider
Read Review
5 TorGuard
  • Torrent-friendly
  • Custom apps
  • 256-bit keys
  • Zero logs
  • Live chat
$5.95
/month
Visit Provider
Read Review
6 Unblock-Us
  • Smart DNS
  • Custom apps
  • No logs
  • Free trial
$4.99
/month
Visit Provider
Read Review

Quick Links


What is Smart DNS?

Smart DNS technology was essentially designed to unblock popular websites and web content (i.e. videos and audio) that is only available to residents of certain regions or countries. Some of the most common examples include video streaming services like Netflix, whose catalogue of shows varies by country of subscription (Netflix USA content is arguably the most in-demand, due to its wider selection of content).

Another example is BBC iPlayer – also a service with its own roster of unique series and documentaries, but not available for viewing to anyone outside of the United Kingdom. The same trend can be observed with geo-restricted music applications such as Spotify or Pandora, who, like their counterparts in the television industry have helped transfer their audiences on to web-based platforms, but have generated plenty of interest and fans in other countries.

Smart DNS proxies resolve the issue of blocked content by changing your IP address location to the country or region where your desired site is accessible from. The proxy accomplishes this task by making minor adjustments to the DNS settings of your web browser or device, instantly unblocking content in any part of the world. As your location data is re-directed through a dedicated proxy server, your virtual location will appear to be in a new country.

What is the difference between VPN and Smart DNS?

VPN services certainly can and do change your IP location, as it is one of their primary functions. The main difference between smart DNS and virtual private networks, however, is that VPNs route all of your data, whilst applying security encryption algorithms, which, in turn, causes loss of speed, a definite inconvenience when you’re attempting to stream at peak hours or over an average internet connection.

Moreover, the further you are positioned from the VPN server, the the slower the speeds you will get, so when you connect to a North American VPN from, say, Europe or even Australia, the results will be far from ideal. Smart DNS proxies, on the hand, are configured to simply change your IP location – much like a public proxy; only Smart DNS servers are premium, private and normally well-maintained. The end result is minimal (if any at all) speed loss, meaning you can download/stream at the behest of your original internet performance.

Speaking of ISPs, it’s worth mentioning that some of these companies throttle connection speeds and even de-prioritise certain types of traffic, most often affecting video streaming and P2P transfers. Unfortunately for this rather regressive 21st century practise, smart DNS is a great tool to circumvent this very digital traffic jam, using the same method described above to connect to sites through an external server.

South Park blocked UK Ireland
Exhibit 1: what non-US residents see without smart DNS
South Park unblocked
Exhibit 2: And this is the result of smart DNS switched on

Compatibility and Setup

In terms of compatibility, Smart DNS proxies are about as versatile as they come. As long as your device allows for changes to its DNS settings, the proxy can be configured fairly quickly, and you can count on your chosen provider to offer all the necessary instructions.

Aside from standard desktop and mobile platforms (Windows, Android and Apple products), it can be setup on a wide range of devices including smart TVs, games consoles (Playstation, Xbox, Wii), and set-top boxes like Amazon Kindle Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and the list continues.

At the moment, most smart DNS services must be set up manually, but the process isn’t too tedious or difficult, especially if you’re following a brief step-by-step guide on your provider’s website.

For each device, you would need to go into the network options and replace your existing DNS settings to that of your provider’s. Bear in mind, each country will be assigned a different proxy server address, therefore to gain access to another geographical region, you would need to update your DNS settings again with the relevant IP address.

Setup tutorials

For detailed step-by-step instructions on how to set up Smart DNS on your computer, we recommend taking a look at our setup tutorials linked below:

On smartphones and tablets the service will only work over a WiFi connection – the DNS server address can be setup via individual WiFi network settings.

Smart DNS services

Provider Features Price Links
1 OverPlay
  • Offers VPN
  • Custom apps
  • 256-bit keys
$4.95
/month
Visit Provider
Read Review
2 CactusVPN
  • Offers VPN
  • Torrent-friendly
  • Custom apps
  • 256-bit keys
$4.99
/month
Visit Provider
Read Review
3 PureVPN
  • Torrent-friendly
  • Custom apps
  • 256-bit keys
  • Smart DNS
  • Live chat
$9.95
/month
Visit Provider
Read Review
4 ibVPN
  • Torrent-friendly
  • Zero logs
  • Smart DNS
  • Custom apps
  • Free trial
$4.95
/month
Visit Provider
Read Review
5 TorGuard
  • Torrent-friendly
  • Custom apps
  • 256-bit keys
  • Zero logs
  • Live chat
$5.95
/month
Visit Provider
Read Review
6 Unblock-Us
  • Smart DNS
  • Custom apps
  • No logs
  • Free trial
$4.99
/month
Visit Provider
Read Review

 OverPlay

OverPlay Smart DNS

OverPlay offers an enormous range of international streaming services and TV channels, all of which are definitely listed and categorised on their website. Additionally, each channel has an indicator as to which device it will work on and the company states on their that they would happily add new channels on request, should something be missing from the list.

What makes OverPlay particularly convenient is the option to bundle smart DNS with their VPN service under one package ($9.95) and 24-hour availability of their technical support team. iPhone and iPad users can make use of OverPlay’s designated smart DNS app for iOS devices – something that is rarely offered by other providers.

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Offers iOS app
  • 14-day moneyback guarantee
  • Also offers VPN

Cons

  • Limited payment options (doesn’t accept Bitcoin)

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CactusVPN

CactusVPN Smart DNS

CactusVPN is a relatively small but well regarded VPN and smart DNS proxy service. Although the company only currently offers four country locations (USA, UK, Netherlands, Poland), this wouldn’t affect being able to access the most popular streaming servers, many of which are hosted in the available locations. To date, you can gain access to over 130+ sites.

For anything it lacks, CactusVPN makes up for with unhindered proxy speeds and very fast connections over its VPN servers. At $4.99 per month or $38.99 for a year subscription, their prices very much suit a tight budget.

One thing to note, though, is that they do not accept Bitcoin payments. Nevertheless, the company itself is based in Moldova, where data retention laws do not apply. They also offer an all-access, 7-day free trial.

Pros

  • Very cheap
  • 130+ unblocked sites
  • 30-day moneyback guarantee
  • Free trial available
  • Also offers VPN

Cons

  • Doesn’t accept Bitcoin
  • Only four VPN server countries

Visit Provider


PureVPN

PureVPN Smart DNS

PureVPN offers over 200 channels with its smart DNS service and is accessible on any internet-capable device. What makes PureVPN unique is the fact that it boasts its own tier-1 technology and has one of the biggest server ranges out of any VPN provider, allowing for unrestricted speeds through numerous locations.

Another major plus is that users can connect on up to five devices at the same time, without breaking terms of service, meaning one account can cover an entire household.

Unfortunately you can’t purchase their smart DNS separately, as you will first need to buy the VPN and only then will you be able to add-on the proxy for a premium fee via your client control panel.

Having added the two together, a standard monthly subscription would set you back a costly $14.99, however it is worth keeping an eye on PureVPN throughout the year as they have a regular knack for running pretty big offers, and during this time the smart DNS add-on is normally free on top of the discounted VPN price.

Pros

  • 120+ channels
  • Optimised for streaming
  • Smart DNS integrated into Windows VPN app
  • Tier-1 provider
  • Can connect on 5 devices simultaneously

Cons

  • Smart DNS only sold as add-on to VPN subscription

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ibVPN

ibVPN Smart DNS

ibVPN is a Romania-based company that offers their smart DNS proxy (ibDNS) either as a separate package or merged with their highly rated VPN accounts. The service provides access to over 100 channels through a choice of 9 countries (USA, Canada, Panama, UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Finland, Brazil) and, like the above mentioned providers, is compatible on any device that permits alterations to its DNS settings.

With several positive points to be made with regards to the proxy, ibDNS should no doubt be high on anyone’s considerations list. Its smart DNS functions with near-to-none speed loss, keeping your original bandwidth in tact for heavy streaming sessions.

Furthermore, the company pays good attention to user-privacy with its strict no-log policy and having made Bitcoin as an accepted payment option.

They operate out of Romania which is more good news for customer privacy, because the nation’s legal system does not endorse data retention laws. Perhaps the only downside is that their T&Cs permit only one user at any given time, but this shouldn’t be much of an inconvenience if you’re only planning to use the service yourself.

Pros

  • 100+ channels
  • Based in Romania (good for privacy)
  • Proxy servers in 9 countries
  • Also offers VPN
  • Accepts Bitcoin
  • Free trial available
  • 15 days moneyback guarantee

Cons

  • 1 active connection per account

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TorGuard

TorGuard Smart DNS

TorGuard offers its own separate smart DNS plan and likewise operates as a well-known VPN provider. It has unblocked a large selection of USA and UK-only streaming services that can be accessed on nearly every device, including PCs, Macs, iPads, smartphones, Roku, Apple TV, PS3/PS4 and Xbox.

One of the main features to note is that they do not overcrowd their proxy servers – a common factor that many overly-commercial providers ignore, even though this ultimately plays a major part in optimising user experience.

The company is based in Panama, which is a safe bet in terms of privacy, as it allows them to conduct their business with a tough no-log policy. If you want your purchase to remain fully anonymous, you also have the option to pay with Bitcoin.

The one downside we did notice; something that has been mentioned earlier – their smart DNS servers only cover USA and UK. However if you only need to unblock the most popular channels or services such as Netflix US or BBC iPlayer, this geographic range will suffice.

Pros

  • 100+ channels
  • 24/7 support
  • Good for privacy (strict no-log policy and based in Panama)
  • Lots of payment options including Bitcoin
  • Also offers VPN

Cons

  • No proxy servers outside USA and UK

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Unblock-Us

Unblock-US

Unblock-Us is one of the most recognisable names in the smart DNS market and provides its customers a vast choice of ready-to-view channels and other on-demand streaming services. Their website neatly categorises services by type (TV, Sports, Kids, Music etc) and even has a an events schedule of upcoming live sports, with a list of broadcasters.

On top of the proxy, it also has a neat feature called Unblock-US Everywhere (smart VPN) which helps you unblock the service itself over public connections that tend to hijack your DNS – hotels and schools, for instance.

The service is relatively cheap at $4.99 per month month and $50 for a year on a convenient, non-contractual basis. We also loved their detailed FAQ section, where users can raise their own questions regarding the service, although chances are, somebody most likely had already asked it.

Those who prefer to pay by Bitcoin, sadly Unblock-Us do not offer this option at the moment, however many alternative payment methods are available to get your favourite sites unblocked in an instant. This service is definitely worth it if you prefer to have a big choice of channels and audio services.

Pros

  • Dedicated Smart DNS service
  • Huge list of unblocked services
  • Cheap
  • User-populated FAQ section

Cons

  • Doesn’t accept Bitcoin
  • No VPN option available

Visit Provider


Conclusion

In summary, a smart DNS is very much a viable and convenient option for getting round regional blocks and censorship. Compared to an ordinary VPN connection, you will stand to gain top speeds (depending on what your own ISP has to offer) for downloading and streaming regionally censored content.

However, it is very important to remember that smart DNS services are not designed to cipher your traffic like a virtual private network. Therefore, if  you have concerns over data privacy, you are much better off connecting to a VPN server before beginning a browsing session.

Luckily, though, most of our recommendations below also offer their own VPNs, and will let you purchase smart DNS separately, as part of a bundled plan or as an add-on to your VPN account. This way, your options will be that bit more flexible, letting you utilise either service depending on your requirements.

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