These days, watching TV isn’t as simple as turning on the remote, and sometimes, we wish we could go back to that much simpler time. But the truth is, with more streaming services comes more entertainment options and fewer commercials. So overall, we’re definitely in the golden age of television, even if it has made things more complicated than ever before.
Now, streaming devices such as Chromecast, Apple TV, and Fire TV have become the go-to choice for streaming on a bigger screen. These devices can turn any HDMI-equipped TV into a smart TV, with access to a variety of streaming services via the internet.
We’re Chromecast and Fire TV users ourselves, but here, we’ll focus on Apple’s modern set-top box: the Apple TV. We’re not going to be reviewing it, though. Rather, we’re going to explore the best options for using it with a VPN or virtual private network. Why? Because just like with other streaming devices, you can benefit by connecting your Apple TV to a VPN, both in terms of digital privacy and accessing more streaming content.
The first thing you should know about Apple TV VPNs is that setting one up isn’t as straightforward as setting up a VPN on most other devices. You’re not going to find a VPN app for your Apple TV that you can simply download and install – at least for the time being.
Apple announced in a 2023 press release that tvOS 17 will soon bring native VPN app support1, but for now, there are only three options for connecting an Apple TV to a VPN service:
Smart DNS: The easiest method changes your Apple TV’s DNS settings to that of the VPN, essentially making it appear like the Apple TV is in a different location. This doesn’t provide encryption though, so it’s best used if your sole goal is to stream content available only to other regions.
Virtual router: This is another easy method, but it requires a Macbook or Windows laptop. Basically, the goal is to connect the laptop to a VPN, and then use it as a virtual Wi-Fi router to which you’ll connect your Apple TV, sharing the VPN connection.
VPN router: This is similar to the previous method, but instead of using a laptop as a virtual router, you’ll use your actual Wi-Fi router. This is the most complex to set up, but it’s the best method if you want a permanent VPN connection for your Apple TV. This won’t work on all models of routers, though, so check out our list of the best VPN routers if yours is not supported.
You don’t want to get too hung up on the set-up process, though. The user-experience is still the top priority. You should choose a VPN that offers servers or smart DNS locations in the regions you’re planning to use. For example, if your goal is to access BBC iPlayer, you need a VPN that can offer U.K. IP addresses or smart DNS locations.
It’s also a bonus if the VPN has streaming-optimized servers and if those servers are optimized for the streaming services you use. If you want to watch Netflix with a VPN, for example, choose a VPN with servers optimized for Netflix. Our list of the best Netflix VPNs might help.
Lastly, you’ll want to make sure your VPN is up to snuff when it comes to speed, especially if you’re an Apple TV 4K user. Apple doesn’t say the minimum speed you need to stream videos, but with Netflix, you need at least 15 Mbps to load 4K videos without buffering.2
Unfortunately, VPN speeds vary. It’s affected by a number of factors, including your own network’s speed, your distance to the VPN or DNS server, and even your device’s performance. To make sure our recommendations can support 4K streaming, we tested the speed of these VPNs to measure how much they affect our 250 Mbps network. While our test isn’t an elaborate study of VPN speeds, they should at least give you an idea on the capabilities of our top picks.
With all those factors in mind, let’s take a look at these five VPNs we deemed the best for Apple TVs: NordVPN, Surfshark, ExpressVPN, Private Internet Access, and CyberGhost.
What The Best Apple TV VPNs Offer
Private Internet Access VPN
Best for Smart DNS Setup
Best for Virtual Router Setup
Best VPN Router
Best for Streaming U.S. Content
Best Value for Money
Monthly Price Range
$3.19 - $12.99
$2.30 - $15.45
$8.32 - $12.95
$2.03 - $11.95
$2.19 - $12.99
Smart DNS setup
Virtual router setup
VPN router setup
VPN server locations
84 countries (incl. in each of the 50 U.S. states)
Apple TV setup: NordVPN supports all three setup methods we mentioned above, but for this specific VPN, we much preferred using the Smart DNS setup. With any VPN, you’ll have to request the VPN provider to activate smart DNS on your account. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to a day – like when we tried it on KeepSolid VPN. With NordVPN, though, it took only a couple of minutes, and from there, we were ready to set up the smart DNS address.
Streaming experience: With smart DNS, NordVPN provided us several streaming options. It was optimized to access U.S. versions of Amazon Prime, Disney+, Max (formerly HBO Go), Fox, and ABC, as well as for international access to Netflix, Paramount Plus, and Peacock TV.
We know, that’s probably not enough for a hardcore binge-watcher, but NordVPN still offered more options than other VPNs with smart DNS. For example, with Surfshark, the options are limited to U.S. streaming services.3
Speed: Without VPN encryption, NordVPN’s smart DNS didn’t have much impact on our Apple TV’s network speed. It was like we were not using a VPN at all, which was true because, again, smart DNS does not encrypt traffic like a normal VPN does. That said, even when we connected our iPhone to NordVPN, our download speed remained at around 220 Mbps (a 10-percent drop compared to our normal network speed).
What We Like
Quick and easy setup using smart DNS
SmartPlay (smart DNS with VPN encryption) on NordVPN apps for other devices
Maintains fast connections
Tutorials and video guides specific to setting up NordVPN for Apple TV
What We Don’t Like
There were instances when Netflix detected our real location
Difficult to set up as a router VPN
Limit of six simultaneous connections per account
Pricier than other options
It’s often the little things that count the most, and with NordVPN, we appreciated the helpful tutorials (including a two-minute video, but start at the 00:58 mark to skip the fluff) posted on its website.4 Of course, smart DNS wasn’t too difficult to set up at all. We simply activated smart DNS in our account dashboard, copied the DNS information, and went into our Apple TV’s network settings to enter the smart DNS address. Not a minute later, we were already picking anime to watch from Netflix Japan.
It’s worth noting though that smart DNS may not work all the time. During the one-week period that we kept NordVPN’s smart DNS running on our Apple TV, there were two instances where Netflix detected our real location, sending us back to the confines of the Netflix U.S. library. When that happened, we just went back to the Apple TV’s network settings, set the DNS to automatic, restarted the device, and entered NordVPN’s smart DNS configuration again. It worked like a charm.
Apple TV setup: As the best Windows VPN for changing IP address location, we set up Surfshark on our Windows laptop to use as a virtual Wi-Fi router for our Apple TV. It turned out to be a smart choice because we later found out that if we set up Surfshark via smart DNS, we would have gotten only U.S. locations. Setting up the VPN on our router was also a no-go because our router wasn’t supported. We would have had to “jailbreak” it to install Surfshark, which we don’t recommend doing unless you’re a networking expert.
Streaming experience: Since we used the Windows Surfshark app to set up a VPN connection, we were able to freely use all 100 locations in Surfshark’s server network. That’s a huge difference compared to NordVPN’s 60 VPN locations. Moreover, Surfshark released a study on which countries have the best Netflix shows and films5, so that’s a good place to start if you’re looking for locations to explore.
Changing IP address location was also easy. We simply clicked a different country from Surfshark’s server menu. We didn’t even have to restart the VPN or reconnect our Apple TV.
Speed: While we noticed that Surfshark’s upload speed tended to be sluggish – it notched a decrease of up to 45-percent compared to our network speed – the downstream speed was above the industry average. Our readings were 218 Mbps on our laptop and 206 Mbps on the Apple TV. It was faster than both ExpressVPN (197 Mbps) and CyberGhost (201 Mbps) in the virtual router configuration.
Smooth user-experience on Windows (used as virtual router)
Decent download speed for streaming
Plenty of locations to choose from (100 countries)
Connect unlimited devices at the same time
What We Don’t Like
Best used if the laptop or Macbook is connected via an Ethernet cable
Virtual router configuration is not a permanent setup
Not ideal for smart DNS configuration (offers only U.S. locations)
Lacks servers optimized specifically for streaming
While configuring a laptop or Macbook as a virtual router is only a temporary fix for connecting Apple TV to a VPN, it’s a good setup for occasional movie nights. This was especially true with Surfshark, with its healthy selection of servers and easy-to-use PC and Macbook interfaces.
Our one gripe with Surfshark is that it doesn’t have servers optimized specifically for streaming. We see a lot of VPNs, like when we reviewed Hotspot Shield, that have servers configured to better get around the geo-restrictions of certain streaming services. Still, even without specialty servers, Surfshark proved reliable. In the five times we tried to watch Disney+ and Netflix on our Apple TV, Surfshark hid our IP address and real location well.
We also liked that Surfshark offers dedicated IP addresses. This feature comes at a steep price of $3.75 per month on top of your Surfshark subscription, but it’s a surefire way to avoid getting blocked by Netflix. Streaming sites detect VPN users when they see that multiple users are streaming from a shared IP address, which happens when two or more VPN users connect to the same server. With a dedicated IP address, no matter which server you connect to, you’ll always get your own unique IP address.
Apple TV setup: VPN routers are typically the most difficult to set up, but ExpressVPN is an exception. ExpressVPN offers a ready-to-use router VPN called Aircove. The downside? It comes with a hefty price tag of $189, and you still need to maintain an ExpressVPN subscription.
The upside, though, is that it’s super easy to set up. We managed to get our hands on (borrow) an Aircove router to take for a quick spin. We set it up as a Wi-Fi access point and in under 15 minutes, we were able to connect it to our network, configure our VPN settings, and connect our Apple TV to it.
Streaming experience: ExpressVPN is second only to Surfshark when it comes to server locations – it offers 94 locations compared to Surfshark’s 100. All those locations were available through Aircove.
Moreover, since Aircove is a direct product of ExpressVPN, we were able to manage its VPN connection via our ExpressVPN online dashboard. When we were done watching anime on Netflix Japan, we easily switched over to a U.K. server using only our iPhone to binge Doctor Who. The user-experience was on point, something we expected from the best VPN router in the market.
Speed: With the Aircove plugged into our modem via an Ethernet cable, we enjoyed speeds of around 230 Mbps, both for uploads and downloads. It also helped that the Aircove broadcasts Wi-Fi 6 signals, which is significantly faster and more stable than older iterations of the Wi-Fi protocol.6
What We Like
Easy to set up and use
No limit to the number of devices you can connect to Aircove
Online dashboard for easy management
94 server locations and counting
What We Don’t Like
Aircove is priced similar to mid-range routers
Cannot be controlled using the ExpressVPN mobile or desktop apps
Limited Wi-Fi signal range (best placed near the Apple TV)
ExpressVPN subscriptions cost at least $8.32 per month
ExpressVPN’s Aircove router is clearly the best VPN router there is for those who need one due to its user-friendliness. Being able to switch server locations easily without reprogramming your router is already a huge plus, but we’ve only scratched the surface.
For starters, with a typical VPN router, all devices connected to the network use the same VPN tunnel, IP address, and location. With Aircove, we were able to set our Apple TV to connect to a U.K. server and, at the same time, our laptop to a U.S. server. We later learned that it can maintain up to five VPN tunnels leading to different locations at the same time.
There were other useful features, too, like the Threat Manager that blocked ads and malicious links. Our personal favorite was parental control, because even though we’re no longer kids, we still need to be reminded of our bedtime sometimes. By telling Aircove to turn off our Apple TV’s internet connection by 10 p.m., we made sure not to watch one Doctor Who episode too many.
4. Private Internet Access VPN - Best for Accessing U.S. Streaming Content
Apple TV setup: Similar to Surfshark, Private Internet Access was too difficult to set up on a router for us, so we opted to use a virtual router setup. It was quick and easy thanks to PIA’s user-friendly Windows app. Smart DNS was also an option, but we found the VPN’s five DNS locations (Germany, U.K., U.S., Netherlands, Japan) limiting.
Streaming experience: Installed on our laptop, Private Internet Access gave us access to 84 server locations. Not only that, but it had servers optimized specifically for streaming. They were marked ‘Streaming Optimized’ in the server list, or you could simply search ‘streaming’ using the app’s search bar. There are nine servers in total, including two in the U.S. (East and West Coasts), Australia, Japan, Italy, and Denmark.
Speed: We’ve always known that Private Internet Access performs well on Windows, and this time was no different. Although the latency (ping) of the streaming optimized servers were quite high (over 200 ms), it didn’t stop us from streaming 4K movies on our Apple TV buffering-free. Our speed test readings on the Apple TV ranged from 212 (lowest) to 227 (highest) Mbps, so while there were fluctuations, Private Internet Access was fast overall.
What We Like
Viable for both smart DNS and virtual router setup
Has servers optimized for streaming
Has servers in each of the 50 U.S. states
Reliable speed and connections
What We Don’t Like
Only five smart DNS locations
Specialty (optimized) servers are often high-load
Other servers work for streaming, but can be unreliable
Feature-rich Windows app tends to run slow
We found Private Internet Access to be the best choice if you want to access U.S. streaming content, whether you’re vacationing with the Apple TV in tow or living outside the U.S. That’s because Private Internet Access, which is based in Denver, has at least one server in each U.S. state. No other VPN we tested had a network as focused to the U.S. as Private Internet Access.
Granted, not all those servers are optimized for streaming. There were a couple of times when Netflix detected that we were using a VPN and blocked us. However, six of the nine servers we used worked, and we think that’s a pretty good reliability rate.
We also appreciated the fact that Private Internet Access has two U.S. servers optimized for streaming – East and West. We live on the East Coast, so we get the East Coast programming of YouTube TV. Connecting our laptop, and hence our Apple TV, to PIA’s U.S. West server was an easy way for us to change our YouTube TV location and access the West Coast programming of ESPN.
Apple TV setup: CyberGhost is another VPN best used for a virtual router setup, but this time, we used a Macbook. It’s possible to share a Macbook’s VPN connection with other devices, but one caveat we found is that you need a VPN that supports the L2TP VPN protocol. This is an older VPN protocol, considered less secure than options like OpenVPN, but it works great for the purpose of streaming because it’s fast.
CyberGhost is part of the dwindling number of VPNs that offer L2TP, so we took advantage and set it up on our Macbook to get a feel of the setup process. We found it similar to setting up a Windows virtual router, except for the part that the Macbook has to be connected to the internet via an Ethernet cable.
Streaming experience: CyberGhost has a really large network of servers designated for streaming. We counted over 80 servers for different services and locations. Private Internet Access’ nine optimized servers are a far cry from CyberGhost’s network. That is, if you use CyberGhost on a virtual router. If you use smart DNS, we hate to break it to you but there are only three available options: Hulu U.S., Netflix U.S., and Netflix U.K.
Speed: As we briefly touched on earlier, CyberGhost was a little on the sluggish side. With a Macbook set up as a virtual router, we got an average download speed of 201 Mbps from our CyberGhost connection. That’s still plenty fast if your internet is as fast as ours, but that’s still about a 20-percent decrease for our 250 Mbps network.
What We Like
Offers L2TP (needed if you want to share your Macbook’s VPN connection)
Affordable subscriptions starting at $2.19 per month
Over 80 servers optimized for different streaming locations and services
User-friendly Mac interface
What We Don’t Like
Only three streaming options with smart DNS
Limit of seven simultaneous connections
Macbook must be connected to the internet via Ethernet cable
After shelling out over $100 on your Apple TV and buying monthly subscriptions to your favorite streaming services, the last thing you probably want is another bill to pay. Unfortunately, all the best VPNs to use with Apple TV require a subscription, so the next best option is an affordable VPN. That is exactly what you get from CyberGhost. For its two-year package, you’ll pay only around $57. You’ll even get two months free, bringing the average cost down to $2.19 per month.
While CyberGhost doesn’t stand out next to our other top picks, for that price, you get a lot of value for your money. It works quite well for an affordable VPN. You’ll have to live with some quirks, like its slower speed and device limit, but after testing CyberGhost for a week, we can say that this is a reliable option.
We also liked that CyberGhost has a 45-day money-back guarantee, 15 days longer than the refund period of even some of the top options such as NordVPN and Surfshark. This gives you a longer time to get a feel for CyberGhost, and if it doesn’t pan out, you can invoke the money-back guarantee to get a full refund.
What The Best Apple TV VPNs Have in Common
Now that we’ve given you the “what” of the best Apple TV VPNs, let’s talk about the “why.” As you can probably tell, we didn’t just randomly select these VPNs. Our recommendations are based on weeks of testing and researching possible options. In the end, we noticed that the best VPNs to use with Apple TV share a few things in common.
Compatibility: Of course, they all have to be compatible with Apple TV, but we selected the VPNs that support all three setup methods in case you want to experiment and find the setup that works best for you.
Ease of setup and use: Naturally, each VPN is easier to use with different setups, but overall, the five VPN we recommended are all easy to use. You won’t need to be a tech whiz to use any of them.
Server network: Since streaming is probably the most common use case scenario for Apple TV VPNs, we chose only the VPNs with a sizable server network, especially pertaining to the location of the servers. You won’t use all those locations (probably!), but it’s best to have options.
Speed: This is another crucial factor. We wouldn’t recommend VPNs with abysmal speeds, especially since they’ll mostly be used for streaming.
Security: This may not be a top priority for most who are looking for an Apple TV VPN, but it is to us. While we did focus our tests on the streaming and overall user experience, we still selected only VPNs capable of protecting your data and more importantly, those that will not log and sell your browsing activity.
Do Apple TVs Really Need a VPN?
We strongly recommend using a VPN on all gadgets, from smartphones to computers, but that may not be the case for Apple TVs. Connecting your Apple TV to a VPN is not an absolute must. There’s no native browser for the Apple TV, so there’s no need to use a VPN to hide your browsing activity.
That being said, there are unique benefits to connecting your Apple TV to a VPN. One we’ve repeatedly mentioned in this review is that it can give you access to geo-restricted content. In addition to that, though, using a VPN can help keep your activity more private, even if that activity is just watching shows.
None of that’s particularly concerning IF Netflix uses it only to improve its services; unfortunately, Netflix shares information with third parties, including advertising partners and service providers. There’s no telling what those parties do with your data.
While data about one’s streaming activity may be benign, there may be underlying data collection practices we don’t know about. Using Apple TV with a VPN is completely optional, but a good idea.
Step-by-Step Guide: Setting Up Apple TV VPNs
As we’ve discussed rather extensively throughout this page, there are three methods for setting up a VPN for Apple TV. We also gave you a glimpse of the process for each. Here, we’ll do a deeper dive with step-by-step instructions.
Due to the complexity of setting up a router VPN, however, we opted not to include setup instructions here as even a single misstep can ruin your router. If you want to use a router VPN, we recommend researching instructions from your VPN provider and router manufacturer – these vary from one VPN to another, and from one router model to another. Another option is to buy a router pre-installed with a VPN, such as Aircove.
To set up smart DNS, you’ll need any device with a browser, a subscription to a VPN, and access to your Apple TV.
Connect your device to the same network your Apple TV is connected to.
On your device, go to your VPN’s website and log in to your account.
Once you’re in your account dashboard, look for “Smart DNS.”
Enable the smart DNS.
Wait for an email from your VPN confirming that smart DNS has been enabled. This could take minutes or hours, depending on the VPN.
Once enabled, go back to your dashboard. Some VPNs will detect your IP address automatically, but if your VPN asks you to “whitelist” or “allowlist” your IP address, simply find your device’s IP address and enter it.
Once done, two strings of DNS addresses should appear: a Primary DNS and Secondary DNS.
On your Apple TV, go to the network settings. (General > Network > Wi-Fi)
Select “Configure DNS,” then “Manual.” The interface will ask you to plug in the new DNS. If you see two fields, enter both the Primary DNS and Secondary DNS from your VPN dashboard. If you see only one, enter just the Primary DNS.
We recommend restarting your Apple TV to apply those changes.
For this configuration, you’ll need a Windows 10 or 11 laptop capable of broadcasting Wi-Fi signals and a VPN subscription. It would be best if you connect your laptop to your router via an Ethernet cable for better speeds.
Open your laptop’s settings and go to Network and Internet.
Click Mobile Hotspot and toggle the switch to the “on” position.
Note the Name (SSID) and password. If this is your first time using the Mobile Hotspot feature, set your desired SSID and password.
On your Apple TV, go to the network settings and disconnect it from your home Wi-Fi.
From the available networks, select your laptop’s SSID and enter your password.
The Apple TV already offers endless options for streaming content, but with a VPN, you can expand those possibilities even further. Moreover, VPNs offer a great way to increase your online privacy, not just for your Apple TV but your other devices as well.
Millions of people have read and watched our reviews of the best VPNs, and with those views come a ton of questions. We’ve narrowed down the questions we get most frequently about the best VPNs for Apple TV.
To use a VPN on Apple TV, you’ll need to either connect the VPN to your router then add the Apple TV on its network, or configure your router’s settings to include your Apple TV’s IP address. You can also use a mirroring app like AirPlay to play content from a mobile or desktop device to your apple TV.
NordVPN does work with Apple TV, but you’ll need to first connect it to your router by logging in and configuring the VPN, which will look different depending on your router. Next, you’ll make sure that your Apple TV is on the router’s network before watching.
Surfshark works with Apple TV if you activate the smart DNS feature. Once you activate the smart DNS feature in your account on the Surfshark website, you’ll be able to set up the VPN on your Apple TV via instructions from an email.