Short answer: not exactly. Long answer: like everything in life, “it’s complicated.” Yes, there is one other possible way to unblock Netflix US without VPN. But by the end, you’d find the VPN option more convenient – whether it’s getting American Netflix for your smart TV or any of your other devices. Here’s what we mean.
How to Unblock Netflix US with Smart DNS
When you type www.netflix.com in your browser, your device sends a Domain Name System (DNS) request to your ISP’s servers. Their DNS server turns that link name into an IP address that can be read by a computer, and vice versa.
The problem with DNS requests is that they contain small bits of data that can reveal your real-life location. Netflix can use that info to block you from their region-specific catalogs. Now, Smart DNS providers have proxy servers in multiple countries that allow you to access services blocked in your area.
By routing your traffic through Smart DNS, those revealing bits of data are replaced with something that reflects the country you’re trying to connect to. In your case, a Smart DNS would unblock Netflix US by making your DNS requests appear to be from the States.
Moreover, your provider will also dynamically assign a different DNS address for each available region, rather than using the default one from your ISP. This way you can unblock news sites from different areas without changing server locations, for example.
The content needs to have been unblocked by your Smart DNS in advance, though. If you need something more specific than the most popular services (like Netflix), you might have to ask the provider about it.
The Problems with Smart DNS
There are several issues that could prevent you from unblocking Netflix US with this tool. Here they are, in order of severity.
#1 Your ISP Could Force You to Use Their DNS
Some ISPs implement a thing called transparent DNS proxy to force your device into using their own DNS servers for all requests. This makes it impossible to unblock Netflix US without a DD-WRT router and a few tweaks to your router settings. These can usually be found on the Smart DNS provider’s website – in their knowledge base or support article sections.
The point being: it’s kind of a headache to get Smart DNS working if your ISP does this, and impossible without a compatible router.
#2 Firewalls Could Block Netflix
Another thing to consider: Smart DNS won’t let you bypass firewall restrictions. If your home country blocks Netflix and other traffic with a firewall, as China does, you’re out of luck. This can be an issue even in less restrictive countries.
Most public places that offer Wi-Fi, like hotels, airports, or cafés, also have pretty strict firewall rules to conserve bandwidth. It’s understandable, but we’re not here to pity international hotel chains. In any case, a quick Google search for “Netflix on hotel WiFi” will reveal that many places block Netflix entirely, or require you to get the hotel’s app just to log in on their smart TVs.
#3 Netflix Doesn’t Want You Watching Geo-blocked Shows
Want to unblock Netflix US on Android? Well, Netflix hardcoded their Android app to always use Google DNS a few years back, so some users reported their Smart DNS stopped working. This might only be an issue with certain Smart DNS providers, so it doesn’t hurt to check if they’ve changed it in the meantime.
Aside from that, Netflix has been generally hostile towards unblocking tools for these past few years. You could blame Netflix for this, but it’s mostly due to pressure from movie studios and TV networks. After all, why ask for a one-time fee for a global audience when they could sell their streaming rights by region, for more money?
Now, if the reasons above haven’t convinced you, here’s the case for a VPN.
Why You Should Use VPN to Unblock Netflix US
For one, you can reliably find more VPN providers that unblock Netflix US than dedicated Smart DNS ones that do the same. Then again, most VPNs offer Smart DNS services on the side (see things like ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer or NordVPN’s SmartPlay). It’s true the other way around as well.
Second, a VPN is great if you experience bandwidth throttling from your ISP. Do you tend to binge-watch Netflix shows in your spare time? Then you may have noticed your streaming speeds slowing down to a crawl at some point. To conserve bandwidth, some ISPs throttle your connection for data-intensive activities.
Since a VPN encrypts your traffic (i.e. obfuscates it), your ISP can’t see what you use all that bandwidth for – meaning they can’t reliably tell what to throttle. Obviously, they won’t risk throttling the wrong thing; nor will they do it to your entire connection if they don’t want a lawsuit on their hands.
Finally, VPNs have better coverage – you get more servers in different locations, letting you unblock more of Netflix’s global catalog of shows. Smart DNS tends to be limited to Netflix US and Canada, though you might find providers with better offers.
When to Use Smart DNS for Netflix
The one area where Smart DNS outshines VPN is Internet speeds. Since your traffic isn’t encrypted, you can use your ISP-provided speed for streaming. That’s a definite plus if you already have poor speeds and can’t afford further slowdowns. However, it does come at the cost of possible bandwidth throttling. Even if you don’t care about the privacy aspect of VPNs, the lack of data encryption can still affect your viewing experience.
Other than that, being able to access blocked content from different areas at the same time without having to switch servers is great for convenience. Still, for the reasons outlined above – and just the fact you can unblock Netflix US + its global catalog of shows – VPN is a clear winner.