To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, one of the American Founding Fathers, “If restricting access to Netflix content based upon the user’s geographical location is unjust, the user is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so.”
Although millions of VPN users hold the “why?” of bypassing geo-blocking to be self-evident, the “how?” is, more often than not, still in question. And that is where the important choice comes in. Or, more precisely, the choice of the right VPN service for your next Netflix binge. Is ZenMate that right choice? Or should you flush it down the drain of history faster than your ex’s phone number? Well… let’s find out, shall we?
On that fateful Halloween night back in 2017, you’ve finally mustered the courage to watch that horror movie your coworker from the night shift was telling you about.
Your fingers trembling, you slowly type “Hostel: Director’s Cut” into Google’s search bar and… BOOM! It’s on Netflix, for a limited time only! Luckily, you already have a subscription. You open the streaming platform, carefully type in the title next to the looking glass icon and… instead of the movie, you get the “Explore titles related to: Hostel: Director’s Cut” window.
“What? How? Why?”, you ask, mere seconds away from the terrible realization that your expectations, like most things in a Slovakian torture dungeon, have been horribly shattered.
You’d think everyone’s Netflix libraries would be equal… right? Well, Premier Copyrightholder has got some news for you, comrade: some Netflix libraries are, in fact, more equal than others. And the first among equals is – you guessed it – the US Netflix library. The Holy Grail of content, geo-blocked by your friendly neighborhood film industry.
Sounds unjust? Spoiler alert: Mitch, it might be.
VPN to the rescue
Possessed by righteous fury, you’re about to dust off your trusty musket and fix the good old bayonet… when you remember it’s been decades since humanity has invented better tools to fight for your Universe-given right to watch geo-blocked content on the internet. No, it’s not online petitions.
Enter Virtual Private Networks (VPNs): apps that allow you to reroute your internet traffic via servers located in countries all over the globe. VPNs hide your true location and can make Netflix and their ilk recognize you as a visitor from the country of your choice. ZenMate is one such VPN.
…Or is it?
ZenMate vs. Netflix – the pushback
Now, now. Hold your horses before you close that ZenMate VPN subscription deal, space cowboy: just any VPN app does not a reliable Netflix un-blocker make.
Like most competent entertainment industry behemoths, Netflix has been getting ever-wiser to the millions-strong multitudes of people trying to access the ever-desirable US content library.
To prevent the unwashed global masses from watching “Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie” and other forbidden gems of American film and television, Netflix began blocking known VPN servers, forcing viewers back to the segregated content ghettos they came from.
Which, dear citizen of the world, brings us to the ZenMate Netflix capabilities. Is it able to bypass these counter-measures and unlock the much-coveted vault of the US content library? The short answer is: technically, yes. The long answer: find out below.
Field testing – can ZenMate unblock Netflix?
To test ZenMate’s Netflix capabilities, before attempting to use the streaming service itself we used Netflix’s own speed test at fast.com. And there came the first hiccup: for some reason, when trying to test the speed while connected to ZenMate’s US East server, fast.com was unable to perform the test no matter what we did, even though other locations, including the US West ZenMate server, seemed to work fine.
Trying to remain cautiously optimistic, we then proceeded straight to the Netflix US library to see if we would be able to watch the chef-d’oeuvre of American filmmaking – Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie.
US – East Coast
Hoopla! Voila! It worked!
…Barely. While Netflix did not return the dreaded Proxy error, the speeds were… not immediately deal-breaking, but so underwhelming they might as well be. The show was prone to stuttering and seemed to frantically jump between SD and HD qualities.
According to Netflix, the minimum speeds required to stream comfortably are 3 Mbps for SD, 5 Mbps for HD, and 25 for Ultra HD quality. Which puts the approximate speed of the US Zenmate Netflix connection somewhere between 3 and 5 Mbps. Considering our original, VPN-less speed was measured at 140 Mbps, these speeds are abysmally slow.
US – West Coast
Interestingly enough, our connection from Europe to ZenMate’s US West Coast server fared much better:
Not sufficient for UHD quality, but the HD stream was consistently smooth and stutterless, which might indicate that the speed problems in the East Coast could be caused by the servers being already overcrowded with ravenous hordes of Netflix addicts.
Moving northwards from the US West Coast, the speed seemed to drop off to some extent, but the Canadian Netflix library was accessible.
After crossing the Pacific, ZenMate landed on the Aussie coast with a whimper rather than a bang, allowing us to stream Australian Netflix content in full Standard Definition. Better than nothing, but hardly recommended.
Moving closest to our own location, the Netherlands server was predictably faster but still managed to disappoint. Although it was not nearly as slow as ZenMate’s non-Eurasian “quagmires”, 31 Mbps was barely enough to stream UHD-quality Netflix content.
Against all expectations, the ZenMate UK server proved to be the fastest performer of the bunch. Not only was the speed more than enough to see Captain Underpants in all his UHD splendor, but it was also almost 60% faster than the Netherlands server.
Konichiwa, this is your Proxy error speaking:
Please vacate the geo-blocked premises immediately. Arigato.
ZenMate Netflix – a match made in hell?
While ZenMate is technically capable of unblocking Netflix libraries in other countries, most servers are infernally slow. We can only imagine what their speeds might be for someone with an internet connection below 100 Mbps.
With plenty of competitors, including NordVPN and ExpressVPN, offering overwhelmingly higher speeds and Netflix-optimized server options, ZenMate has been biting the dust by the mouthful in the streaming game.
Which is why our answer to the ZenMate Netflix question is: don’t bother.