Review: UnoTelly DNS and VPN Service – watch BBC, Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go from any region

Let’s start with some facts: I am living in sunny California and me and my kids love Doctor Who! The one small problem, Doctor Who ‘s new episodes are not really available in US, so we need a way to watch them as soon as they are available. That’s not the only problem, a lot of sport events are ignored by US networks or their coverage is downright horrible, including Formula 1, Gymnastics, European soccer, etc. What to do? BBC iPlayer uses geo-location to check your current position and refuses to stream if you are outside UK. Same applies if you are trying to use Netflix/Hulu/HBO Go while traveling in a country that doesn’t have licensing rights for the mentioned services. We will need a service that provides access to streaming services from different countries and UnoTelly offers just such a service. I had the chance to use it around the house and while commuting on the train for the last week, and the experience is detailed in the present review.

Theory

To access a location locked channel outside is allowed region, you have two different choices, use VPN or DNS services. I’ll add a bit of theory here for those that are curious how the technology works, everybody else can jump directly to the main review.

Per Wikipedia, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network, such as the Internet. It enables a computer or Wi-Fi-enabled device to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if it were directly connected to the private network, while benefiting from the functionality, security and management policies of the private network. A VPN is created by establishing a virtual point-to-point connection through the use of dedicated connections, virtual tunneling protocols, or traffic encryption.

In a simpler description, a VPN connection will allow you to change your IP address so it looks like you are located inside a different country. There are disadvantages though, all the Internet traffic is routed trough the servers owned by the company providing VPN services and when they are overloaded, the speed will drop and you might experience buffering and low resolution streaming. See a lot of free VPN solution currently available.

The Domain Name Server (DNS) works differently. At its origin, DNS is a service that translates between a user friendly name like www.reviewhorizon.com to the server’s IP address so your computer knows exactly where to connect. All around the world you will find DNS servers that are part of the Internet backbone and without them you would be forced to use IP addresses to get somewhere. Hard to remember for sure.

Unotelly’s Smart DNS creates a transparent tunnel providing local addresses when the geo location is tested, and allowing direct data access for regular streaming. That means you’ll be able to stream at local speeds, which for a pure VPN solution might not be true.

Features

Depending on the package you buy, you will have access to the basic SmartDNS service or the more sophisticated VPN service. For basic streaming inside your home, the DNS service is enough. If you want access while traveling, using your 3G/4G smartphone connection, or on a hotel / public place via open wireless networks, the VPN is necessary and adds traffic encryption to protect your identity and data. For example I set up the DNS service inside my home and I am using VPN while commuting on the train or inside’s work network with my iPad.

Depending where you live, you will find out that UnoTelly has quite a few servers and during set-up it will try to match you to the fastest/closest one available. The closest to me was under 350 miles away resulting in an optimal connection and fast HD streaming.

Server MAP

Channels supported

There are quite a few channels supported, among the most important ones for me – BBC and BBC sports. For the ones living outside US, I imagine Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Go, Disney and ESPN would be among favorites. For a full list of channels supported head over UnoTelly’s website.

 

unotelly2

Set-up

Setting up DNS is very easy…if you read the instructions. The first step is to set up DNS from your PC/smart device because UnoTelly service needs to know your external IP address to successfully route the traffic. At the first log-in on UnoTelly’s website you will be presented with a dialog to start the set-up. You will have to go to your PC’s Network Settings and set one of the recommended DNS servers in there. For California, Los Angeles area I got:

Fastest Servers

Primary DNS (California) ~ 512 km away from you
Secondary DNS (Seattle) ~ 1574 km away from you

Once you set up UnoTelly’s DNS address and log-in into your UnoTelly account, your IP address will be saved and used for all the devices in the house. Of course, each and everyone of them will have to be updated to the new DNS address. If you want to have access while traveling, you will need to sign for the VPN service as well.

Check under Global Servers tile for various DNS servers depending on your location.

Important: If your IP address changes because you got a new router model, switched to a new plan or changed Internet providers, you’ll have to log-in to UnoTelly’s website to refresh it. It only takes a few seconds.

DNS Setup 2

 

UnoDNS Dynamo

 

Once the initial set-up is complete, you have the option of digging deeper in the settings and set various locations for various services. For example you can set Netflix for US and still watch BBC if located in US. This feature called UnoDNS Dynamo is unique to UnoTelly and also lets you watch a channel, Netflix for example from different regions, if you want a specific show not available in your region.

Netflix

Media streamers supporting multiple services (most of them do) like WD TV Live family, will allow you so watch Netflix/Hulu Plus/VUDU as if located in US and BBC iPlayer as if located in UK. Super cool feature if you ask me.

WDTV

Now, if you want to set-up a streaming box, all you need to do is to set the recommended DNS in the Network section. For WD TV Live Streaming, once you set up the new DNS address, you can reset the location and the new region will be detected as UK. After restart, you will see three new apps available, BBC iPlayer, BBC Sports and BBC News.

Supported devices

Beside PCs and mobile devices, many other media streaming boxes allow you to manually set specific DNS servers including XBOX, PS, Roku, Apple TV and my favorite, WD TV Live Streaming. I am a cord cutter for years now and my house is full of media streamers from various generations. I have a couple of Roku boxes but every TV in the house has a WD TV Live Streaming. The WD TV Live Streaming is the one I love the most since it plays not only my movie collection stored locally, but also supports BBC iPlayer, BBC News and BBC Sports. I can stream BBC in HD with no issues whatsoever using UnoTelly’s service.

devices

Price

You can try UnoTelly’s service for free for 8 days by signing here on their website. There is no credit card required for the trial, so you can test it and see if it works for you. If you like it, they offer two different plans, a Premium Plan for $4.95/month offering UnoDNS for streaming inside your house, and the Gold Plan for $7.95/month if you also need VPN access. Your needs will differ, but for me the VPN plan works better since I spend a considerable amount of time commuting and I need mobile access. There is no contract required and I would say both plans offer a tremendous value considering how many extra channels you get to access. I would gladly pay this amount for BBC streaming only!

Conclusion

 

The best thing I can say about UnoTelly service is that it works, and it works really well! Regardless of the country of residence, you can easily access the most popular streaming services in the world for the monthly price equivalent to a coffee. I can stream in BBC, Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO Go and Amazon Instant Video in beautiful HD regardless of where I travel and my kids can enjoy new episodes of Doctor Who as soon as they are available. I can watch Formula One (live if I want to), documentaries, sport events and world news directly on my TV on my WD TV Live Streaming boxes and it made my experience as a cord cutter so much more enjoyable! A particular cool feature is UnoDNS Dynamo that lets you watch services from several countries at the same time with no additional changes. I thoroughly  enjoy UnoTelly’s service on a daily basis and it comes with Review Horizon’s highest recommendation! Give it a test for free!

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Very fast, perfect HD streaming
  • Wide range of channels supported
  • Streaming boxes, gaming consoles easy to set-up without router changes
  • UnoDNS Dynamo lets you stream services from multiple countries on the same box with no changes

Cons:

  •  One of those rare times I cannot find any negatives. Seriously! Works perfectly. Well, maybe one –  it isn’t free 😉

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