VPN vs. Smart DNS – The Ultimate Comparison in 2024

VPN and Smart DNS are major tools when it comes to bypassing Geo-blocking and accessing restricted websites. But did you know that both have some distinct pros and cons? So, who wins the laurel as we weigh VPN vs Smart DNS?

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Last updated on 14 May 2024

What is a VPN?

Before we get into the VPN vs Smart DNS comparison, we must know what a VPN is. So, in this section, we will try to define a VPN, how it works, its advantages and disadvantages, and the types of VPN protocols.

A VPN or virtual private network is like a watchguard between your device and the internet. It drives the traffic coming from your IP to its remote servers based on the IP address of the country you want to have. For example, suppose you are in the USA. You can connect to the UK server of a VPN to get an IP address of the country.

Further, as the connected VPN server assigns you a new IP address, the VPN also keeps your real IP address hidden. In addition, when you use a VPN, it encrypts your data and ensures that your online identity is never leaked.

Therefore, with a VPN, you will get protection from unwanted third-party entities, spammers, and hackers.

How Does a VPN Work

Imagine the entire VPN mechanism as a tunnel amidst the pool of your internet connection. Now, at one end of this tunnel is your device, and at the other end of the tunnel is the VPN’s server. So, whenever your device sends or receives any traffic from the internet, it has to pass through the server.

To explain further, the other devices on the internet think that the VPN server you are connected to is sending or receiving the message. Therefore, it does not matter which country you belong to, as it will look like you are operating from a country where your VPN server is located.

With an advanced encryption protocol and standard, a VPN also does not let your internet service provider, hacker, or spammer steal your confidential data or traffic.

In addition, a premium VPN uses cryptographies and hashing in a combined manner to make data safety stronger. Moreover, a VPN does not let your DNS requests, IP address, and WebRTC to get leaked.

Thanks to the functions of a VPN, it is used for many reasons. You can use a VPN to browse anonymously, use the web safely, bypass Geo-blocking, and enjoy complete data safety.

VPN smart DNS

Advantages and Disadvantages of a VPN

A VPN can completely redefine your online experience and comes with many advantages. However, certain things about a VPN may not seem to be that advantageous for you. You must know all of them to take your pick in the VPN vs Smart DNS comparison.

Advantages of Using a VPN

  • Helping You Avoid Geo-Blocking and Prying Eyes

A VPN will protect your IP address and assign you a new one. Thus, it will help you to be seen operating from a different country than your actual one. It is how it lets you bypass Geo-blocking and access blocked sites.

So, you can stream Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming sites from any part of the world and access the full content library of these sites. But there is more to it.

Thanks to the tunnel it makes, nobody, including your internet service provider, a government surveillance mechanism, or hackers, gets access to your online activity or data.

So, you remain safe and secure even on a public Wi-Fi connection. Thus, a VPN offers all-inclusive protection against packet sniffing, phishing attacks, malicious third-party attacks, and identity fraud.

Moreover, a VPN does not let your data get stolen, even if it has lost connection to your device for a while. With Kill Switch mechanism, any in-flow and out-flow of data will be completely stopped until the connection to the VPN is restored.

  • Stops Bandwidth Throttling and Offers Decent Speed

A VPN does not allow anyone to have control over or steal your bandwidth, and this is where it gets an edge in the VPN vs Smart DNS test. Even it keeps your internet service provider at bay.

So, there is almost no chance of you facing any bandwidth issues impacting your streaming speed and quality. Further, a premium VPN like ExpressVPN comes with a worldwide server base.

With a vast number of servers, the chance of many people connecting to the same server at the same time is minimized. In other words, there is little scope for lagging or the ping rate going higher when one is playing online games.

  • Makes Remote Working Easier

With a strongly encrypted tunnel and maximum security assured, a VPN makes remote working easier. It makes file sharing safer.

Further, irrespective of the actual physical locations, a large number of computers can be brought under the same VPN network under a remote working setup. So, the network administrator can easily access any device under the same network.

  • Helps You Spend Less by Hiding Your Actual Location

This is another smart and fun trick that explains the importance of a VPN in our VPN vs Smart DNS comparison. Suppose you are present in your country and you need to book an online ticket or get any other online service.

The charges for the same can be lesser in a different country. By connecting to a VPN server, you can have the IP address of that country and book the services at a much lesser price.

  • Committed to Maintaining Your Online Privacy

A VPN wins the VPN vs Smart DNS test in its commitment to maintaining your online privacy. To put it simply, a good VPN is essentially one that commits to a strict no-log policy.

A reliable VPN will never track, store or sell a user’s data or online activity. Further, an independently audited VPN with headquarters outside 5, 9, and 14 Eyes countries is a good choice.

Disadvantages of Using a VPN

Premium VPNs like ExpressVPN can be a little expensive when we compare Smart DNS VPN. However, most leading VPNs today have a free trial and refund period. So, you can always assess a VPN service during that trial period before getting into it in a full-fledged way.

Further, using a VPN can be a little difficult for devices like Playstation or Apple TV. In addition, if we make a VPN vs Smart DNS  comparison, a VPN offers lesser speed.

Moreover, in today’s world, there are many free VPN services. These services are dangerous, robbing and selling your digital footprint and data to third parties. So, it is imperative that you use a premium VPN only, and that is fairly expensive.

Types of VPN Protocols

You can consider a VPN protocol to be the guideline defining how data movement happens between a VPN server and a device. There are many types of VPN protocols used by VPN service providers. The most prominent VPN protocols are:

  • OpenVPN
  • SSTP
  • IKEv2/IPsec
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • PPTP
  • WireGuard
  • Secure Shell (SSH)
  • PPTP
  • Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) & TLS or Transport Layer Security
  • MPLS VPN
  • Hybrid VPN

However, ExpressVPN is such a VPN that comes with a customized in-built protocol, Lightway. Thanks to this protocol, it offers excellent security, privacy, and speed.

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What is a Smart DNS

Going deeper into the VPN Smart DNS comparison, we also need to know what a Smart DNS is. So, in this section, we will define a Smart DNS, how it works, and its advantages and disadvantages.

Defining a Smart DNS

A Smart DNS uses a proxy server to change the actual IP address of users into a new virtual location. This virtual location is the Smart DNS address. This proxy server is located based on the country of access for the streaming site you want to reach.

Thus, the streaming site you want to reach will perceive you to be located in the country where it is allowed. To explain further, you can be present in India and connect to a proxy server in the USA to watch Netflix USA.

How does a Smart DNS Work?

You can see a Smart DNS as nothing but an alternative DNS server. To explain further, similar to your telephone directory, a DNS or Domain Name System is like a directory for the internet.

Whenever you type a web address, for example, abcd.com, your Domain Name System server tries to know the IP address related to that Uniform Resource Locator or URL. Further, the URL looks for the device connected to the network.

Now, whenever you are looking for regional content, your local DNS server will drive your traffic through the regional server. Content Distribution Networks have made regional servers readily available these days.

However, when you are connected to a Smart DNS, it blocks the user’s web address request. Also, it does not move your traffic to your local server but instead makes it go through the proxy server of a different region selected per the content you want to access.

Thus, the foreign streaming site sees your traffic coming through one of its local servers. Plus, if you are placing a web address request that does not need any specialized routing, the Smart DNS server just functions like a regular server.

Unlike a VPN, a Smart DNS does not mask or change your IP address. On the other hand, it makes sure that the website you are browsing gets to read your DNS before your IP. So, it reads your DNS address assigned by the Smart DNS before your actual Geo-location or IP.

Smart DNS VPN

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Smart DNS

Similar to a VPN, a Smart VPN also lets you supersede Geo-blocking. Let’s find out what its advantages and disadvantages are before knowing who wins the VPN vs Smart DNS test.

Advantages of a Smart DNS

  • A Smart DNS Offers Faster Speed

A Smart DNS does not have a critical protocol, and it does not encrypt data. So it does not eat up your bandwidth. Further, it needs to travel through a lesser number of structures. As a result, you will enjoy the better speed with a Smart DNS.

  • Gives Access to Geo-Blocked Content

A Smart DNS stops your web address request and drives your traffic through the proxy server of another location, depending on the content you want to stream. So, it allows you to overcome the perils of Geo-blocking.

  • Works with Almost Every Wi-Fi Router, Protecting All Types of Devices

A Smart DNS will usually be compatible with a wide range of routers. So, once connected to a router, it can help access Geo-blocked content from more devices at the same time. In addition, a Smart DNS comes handy for covering devices on which setting up the VPN software or application is a bit difficult.

Disadvantages of a Smart DNS

A Smart DNS does not mask your IP address. So, hackers, spammers, and other third-party entities can easily track your IP while making an attempt to access a Geo-blocked site. At the same time, as it does keep the data coded, it can be stolen at any time.

In addition, these days, Smart DNS services are becoming quite expensive. Moreover, setting up a DNS server can be a little difficult for some devices.

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VPN vs Smart DNS Comparison

By far, you know that VPN Smart DNS both have similar functions in bypassing Geo-blocking. However, the working mechanisms of both these tools are very different. A VPN works by hiding your IP address and connecting to a remote server that assigns you a new server. Further, it encrypts your entire traffic.

A Smart DNS, on the other hand, routes your traffic to a proxy server and lets the streaming site read the proxy server address. Thus, it helps in evading Geo-blocking. Nevertheless, we conducted a VPN Smart DNS on certain parameters. Let’s find out which one gets the edge in this VPN vs Smart DNS assessment.

VPN or Smart DNS: Which is Better in Security?

In the VPN Smart DNS comparison of security, VPN is the clear winner. A Smart DNS just helps you get a new virtual DNS location by routing specific traffic to a remotely located proxy server. It does not encrypt your traffic or data. It even does not hide your IP address or actual Geo-location.

A VPN, on the contrary, is like an all-inclusive digital protection solution. It masks the IP address of your device standing at one end of its secure tunnel.

Further, its remote server standing at the end of the secure tunnel assigns you a new IP address that everyone on the internet gets to see. In addition, it makes sure that the DNS requests you place and WebRTC happening do not get leaked at any cost.

Also, a VPN makes sure that your data remains secure through powerful coding. Moreover, a reliable VPN is always committed to maintaining the online anonymity of users. So, it does not track, store or share user data as part of its no-log policy. Therefore, VPN gets the laurel in VPN Smart DNS comparison of security.

Smart DNS Vs VPN: Which is Better in Speed?

Smart DNS is the winner in the VPN Smart DNS comparison for speed. However, it would not be right if we didn’t evaluate the perspective of speed in the VPN Smart DNS comparison. A Smart DNS no doubt offers a better speed, but it does not encrypt your traffic or hide your IP address. So, your digital privacy and security can be at stake.

Similarly, when you connect to a reliable VPN like ExpressVPN, you will get speed-optimized servers, giving you better speed. At the same time, the speed-optimized servers spreading across the globe will help you avoid the problem of server overcrowding.

So, be it gaming or streaming, you will enjoy a lag-free experience. Moreover, a VPN will not let anyone, even your internet service provider, throttle your bandwidth. So, you will get a good speed while using the internet.

So, think about these aspects of VPN vs Smart DNS comparison before you take your call. While conducting the VPN vs Smart DNS review, we found a VPN to be a much better and safer option.

VPN and Smart DNS

Smart DNS or VPN: Which is Better in Ease of Use?

In the VPN Smart DNS comparison of ease of use, a VPN is a winner. It works with almost all streaming devices. You have to just subscribe to a VPN and download and install the app as per the operating system of your device. Next, you can connect to any of the servers based on the desired location, and you can start streaming.

However, Smart DNS may seem a little tricky for setting up, especially for beginners. At first, you will have to register your IP address. Then, you will have to retrieve your new DNS address, and next enter the new IP address on your device manually.

Finally, you will have to restart the device to use the device with a Smart DNS. So, in the VPN vs Smart DNS assessment of ease-of-use, a VPN gets the edge.

VPN Smart DNS Comparison of Costs

In the VPN Smart DNS comparison of cost, a Smart DNS bags the prize. Public DNS services from Cloudflare and Google are free of cost. At the same time, service providers like ExpressVPN bring Smart DNS whenever you subscribe to their VPN solution. Further, even if you are going for standalone VPN companies, Smart DNS services are much cheaper.

However, considering the other aspects of VPN vs Smart DNS comparison, you can try the premium VPNs offering a free trial. In such cases, you will be able to test a VPN before committing to it completely.

Summary Table beteween VPN vs Smart DNS

CHARACTERISTICS VPN Smart DNS
Security and Privacy Winner Loser
Speed Loser Winner
Ease of use Winner Loser
Cost Loser Winner

Who Should Use a VPN?

One should use a VPN when one wants to ensure protection from any type of vigilance or data theft while evading Geo-blocking. In other words, a VPN will ensure that your digital anonymity is maintained and nobody gets to track your IP address when you are trying to access a foreign site.

So, a user in need of unblocking a restricted site without compromising data safety and security will use a VPN. A VPN is so safe that even your internet service provider will not get to know your online activity or have control over your bandwidth.

A VPN is widely used by viewers who want to access the content of other regions, IT employees, network engineers, gamers, and people doing torrenting.

Who Should Use a Smart DNS?

One should use a Smart DNS when connecting to a VPN is not possible for some reason. Both VPN Smart DNS help to avoid Geo-blocking and unblock restricted content. However, despite serving a similar purpose and offering a greater speed, a Smart DNS does not offer online safety and privacy as a VPN.

So, one should go for a Smart DNS when one wants a smoother operation of the internet and need the content to get loaded quickly.

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VPN Smart DNS FAQs

Is SmartDNS better than VPN for Netflix?

A Smart DNS and a VPN both can help you avoid Geo-blocking and unblock the foreign content library of Netflix. Despite operating through different mechanisms, these two services will help you connect to a remote server and access this leading streaming site.

However, unlike a VPN, a Smart DNS will only route your traffic through a remotely located proxy server based on the content library of the country you want to watch. Also, it will not hide your IP address or encrypt your online data.

So, though you will get access to Netflix with a VPN Smart DNS, we consider a VPN like ExpressVPN a much better option for unblocking Netflix.

Does SmartDNS change your IP?

No, a Smart DNS does not change your IP address. It just blocks your web address request and pushes your traffic through a proxy server, which is located in a remote country. The selection of the proxy server is made based on the permitted location of the content or streaming site you want to access.

Now, the streaming site you want to access will read that it is the proxy server that is trying to access it. To put it simply, the streaming site will consider your traffic as the local one and allow access immediately.

Is Smart DNS better than VPN?

No, Smart DNS is not better than VPN, despite serving the similar purpose of bypassing Geo-blocking. On the contrary, for bolstered online safety and better speed, one should use a VPN Smart DNS both.

A VPN keeps your IP address protected and provides you with a new IP address so that you can avoid Geo-blocking. It also encrypts your data to prevent hacking.

A Smart DNS does not offer any of these facilities but channelizes your traffic through a remotely located server for bypassing Geo-blocking. At the same time, a Smart DNS offers a better speed than a VPN.

Can I use Smart DNS and VPN at the same time?

No, you cannot use a VPN Smart DNS at the same time. There can be problems in multiple scenarios. For example, when you are using a VPN Smart DNS simultaneously, the Smart DNS will continue to function. However, the Smart DNS will consider the IP address from the VPN server as your validated IP.

Thus, along with you, many other users will have that validated IP at that moment, creating a problem in the website region you have set. To put it simply, you may not be able to load your chosen website region with the Smart DNS connection.

Again, when you use VPN Smart DNS at the same time, the VPN will not read the DNS address of your network or device. In addition, as the VPN connection will encrypt the traffic, you will not be able to enjoy the best speed as promised by Smart DNS.

Still, there is one scenario when using VPN Smart DNS can be beneficial at the same time. It is when you want to cover all the devices in a residential or domestic setup by the Smart DNS and want to connect some of them to a VPN. In such cases, you can set up the Smart DNS on your router and connect the required devices to the VPN connection differently.

Is Smart DNS a proxy?

No, a Smart DNS is not a proxy. A Smart DNS pushes the traffic of a user to a proxy server. It is very specific in only driving the traffic that demands redirection to a proxy server.

It does not encrypt the entire traffic of the user as a VPN does. In addition, when you have a Smart DNS location, the website you want to stream will read that you are operating from a local region and will allow access.

A proxy server, on the other hand, is the server that receives every web request you send to the internet at first. Then it pushes the traffic to the intended server. Thus, the recipient or the intended server perceives that the proxy server has originally sent the request.

So, the user remains anonymous, and when the recipient server responds to the proxy server, it sends the response from the recipient server to the user.

Final Words on VPN Smart DNS Comparison

Summing up the VPN Smart DNS comparison, it can be said that one should use a VPN Smart DNS both to optimize their online experience and bypass Geo-blocking. A VPN will offer the best safety and privacy protection by masking your IP address and encrypting your data.

At the same time, the Smart DNS will offer great speed to enhance your streaming experience.

Talking about VPN, ExpressVPN is the best in the market with its in-built Lightway protocol, AES-256-bit encryption standard, and server presence in 94 countries. Further, it is a VPN revered for its no-log policy and advanced security features.

This reputed VPN service also has a SmartDNS setup called MediaStreamer for devices not compatible with a VPN. In addition, it now offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for all users.

So, what are you waiting for? Subscribe to ExpressVPN and use its VPN vs Smart DNS service.

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Radha is a writer by heart, with a particular passion for writing in the realm of technology. She has been a geek ever since her preschool days, and looking back, she sees her journey from a reader to an author as incredibly fulfilling. Moreover, Radha finds joy in inspiring kids, much like herself, to pursue their own paths. With a background in Computer Science, Radha's knowledge and expertise are further enriched by her career as a technical support specialist. For any inquiries or collaboration opportunities, you can contact Radha via email at radha@thebestvpn.in.

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