Roku is one of the world’s most popular streaming equipment brands. Offering stiff competition to Amazon’s Fire Stick, Roku streaming boxes plug into Smart TVs and make it easy to access web-based streaming services like BBC iPlayer or Netflix.
However, before you plug in a Roku device and start exploring what it has to offer, it’s well worth thinking about adding a VPN. As we’ll see, Roku has its limitations, and it may also present security risks. But with a Roku VPN, these issues can be tackled.
This article will introduce some reasons to mix Roku with a high-quality VPN and help you find the ideal provider for your streaming needs.
Why would you need a VPN for Roku?
Before we break down what makes a great Roku VPN, it probably helps to set out the reasons for using encryption and IP anonymization with the streaming service.
Firstly, VPNs can allow Roku users to access content that might otherwise be restricted. For example, you should be able to work around the geo-blocking used by Netflix. These filters block out people in certain regions, limiting the movies and TV shows available to them. But with VPNs, you can route your IP through any country (almost).
Just as importantly, VPNs allow Roku users to protect themselves against copyright holders and law enforcement. If you choose to stream content like live sports or movies, VPNs will hide your identity, making it much harder to track your activity.
Finally, VPNs can help to beat ISP throttling. This can kick in if your internet provider detects excessive bandwidth usage. But VPNs make it very tough to analyze your data habits.
So there are plenty of great reasons to source a VPN for Roku. But what should you be looking for when you make your decision?
The key elements of a great Roku VPN
Let’s keep things simple: a good VPN for Roku needs to be fast, secure, affordable, and compatible with Roku boxes and devices. Not many VPNs tick all of those boxes, and it can be hard to understand which ones offer the features Roku users require, so let’s deal with them in turn.
The speed of a VPN isn’t always simple to measure until you actually see the service in action. However, there are some factors that usually add up to super-fast connection speeds.
Firstly, look for a VPN with a large number of servers. The more servers there are, the more likely you are to find one offering blisteringly quick speeds.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Some VPNs report wide server coverage but offer disappointing speeds. So check speed comparisons and reviews before downloading anything. And look for VPNs which maintain their own servers, instead of renting capacity from third parties.
2. Ability to beat geoblocking
The second factor is related to speed. Generally speaking, VPNs with large server numbers are a better bet for users who want to maximize the content available on Netflix or other platforms.
Ideally, a good Roku VPN will have servers in all key entertainment markets, letting you pick and choose regions until you find a content selection you like the look of.
But again, this isn’t as simple as it looks. Relatively few VPNs have a flawless record when it comes to accessing Netflix – and even huge server networks can fail. So double check with your provider that it guarantees access before you sign up – or use free trials to test the waters for yourself.
3. Excellent IP leakage performance
IP leakage is another factor that affects geo-blocking. If your VPN leaks information about your identity at any stage, it will be far less effective at accessing streaming platforms. And again, VPNs vary dramatically when it comes to IP leaks.
One way to test this for yourself is by trying a VPN’s free trial (most have them). When you’ve fired up the client, you should be able to check whether your IP address has been securely re-routed with this IP checker.
If the IP checker doesn’t show that your location has changed, move onto a different VPN. Reputable providers will ensure that even their free versions block leaks – but many don’t.
4. Security and privacy
This is obviously one of the most important considerations for Roku users. If you intend to use non-mainstream content sources, you must choose a VPN with ironclad encryption. Don’t cut corners here. Keeping your streaming activity private is absolutely essential in a world of aggressive copyright enforcement.
The best Roku VPN contenders will offer 256-bit AES encryption. So look for that as a first step. But they should go beyond encryption. Look for OpenVPN protocols or IKEv2 (which actually might work better for Android-based Roku devices).
And go for providers that offer a “Kill Switch“. These tools cut out your stream if the VPN fails, providing a failsafe which could be the difference between detection and stress-free streaming.
You’d be surprised by how many providers seek to monetize their customers’ data. So don’t get caught out.
5. Pick a Roku-friendly VPN
Not all VPNs are well-adapted for using with Roku devices. If you choose one that is, it could make setting up your VPN for Roku much, much easier.
Sadly, Roku devices themselves don’t come with native VPN capabilities, so the setup process isn’t as simple as it could be. Here’s a basic outline of how to do so.
- Set up a virtual router on a laptop or desktop within range of the Roku device. This tutorial from ExpressVPN is a good primer on how to do this.
- Install a VPN client on your new virtual router.
- Create a US account at the Roku website (if you intend to access American streaming services).
- Set your Roku box to seek your Wireless network, and then the VPN, which should be found on that network.
- Use the Roku networking menu to log onto the VPN on your virtual router.
As you can see, there are plenty of stages in the process, and different devices for the VPN to handle. This makes it essential to pick a VPN which is known to deal with Roku setups well. Anything from this list should do fine:
6. Balance price and performance
Finally, we need to find a VPN for Roku which satisfies the conditions we’ve talked about (speed, privacy, compatibility) but does so at an affordable price.
One consideration here is whether you want a dedicated Roku VPN or one which handles your smartphone, laptop, and any other devices in your home. If so, paying a bit more for a multi-device VPN subscription makes sense.
If not, many of the VPNs on the list above offer excellent value. Most also offer free trial periods of as much as 30-45 days. So you can try them for a month or so, before making a final decision, and we would recommend that you do so.
However, whatever you do, don’t sacrifice security for a price. A good Roku VPN is a secure, fast, and reliable VPN, not the cheapest around.