IMPORTANT UPDATE: At the time of writing it in 2014 the below review was accurate. However, Netflix and other stremaing services have begun to crack down on VPN and DNS access. If you intend to purchase Unotelly for this use then it may not work or only work intermittently.
Original review below:
Have you ever wished you could watch the US version of Netflix outside North America? What about catching up on the latest episode of Dr Who when far from Blighty’s shores? Want to use Spotify in Canada? UnoTelly is a service that lets you do all of that.
It’s legal, but perhaps a moral grey area – we’ll get into why later.
Essentially a DNS (Domain Name System) and VPN (Virtual Private Network) service, UnoTelly enables you to break free from the bonds of location and take advantage of all the great streaming services around the globe.
It covers the vast majority of devices, from iPhones to Windows XP machines and PS3 to hundreds of routers.
Just a few of the devices covered by UnoTelly's comprehensive setup system
All this freedom comes at a price, of course. The Premium Plan, which covers DNS, costs $4.95 per month while the Gold Plan, which also provides VPN services, costs $7.95 per month.
VPNs let you secure your Internet connection and prevent snooping, but having a VPN isn't necessary to access streaming content from other countries. It's just useful if you have privacy and online security concerns.
There are a number of free services, such as the Hola Unblocker browser plugin, or free DNS servers you can use. Unfortunately, while free, these don’t provide the slick experience you might hope for.
Hola Unblocker regularly conks out and can slow your general browsing and – most annoyingly for binge-watchers – fails to play the next episode in a Netflix series. Free DNS servers tend to work intermittently – there one day, gone the next. So there's definitely a space for a service like UnoTelly.
While many rights owners might not like it, it’s not actually illegal to watch US Netflix in the UK. UnoTelly routes all requests through its own DNS servers and tricks services such as Netflix into thinking you’re in the US, or the UK or any one of the other countries that Netflix operates in.
UnoDNS does this by creating a network tunnel from your device or router to UnoTelly’s servers. The good thing is that it’s only the supported streaming services that get rerouted; your normal browsing isn’t affected, so Google searches are still relevant to your location.
UnoVPN is a little different. It masks your IP address to appear as if you’re connecting to the Internet from the US or UK. This means that you can access sites that are blocked from your current location.
Using a VPN also means data you send over insecure connections, like free Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop, remains private. It even secures you from your ISP's prying eyes. VPN services can see what you do, as everything gets routed through their servers, but UnoTelly claims to only keep minimum logs. These include: login time, logout time and the amount of bandwidth used.
While we don’t condone the practice, you can use UnoVPN to access torrent sites, but not using any of the US VPNs. Do that and UnoTelly will terminate your service toot sweet.
Why don’t rights owners and managers like bypassing location settings? Well, the owners of a movie or TV series tend to sell the rights on a location basis. So while you get to watch the likes of Family Guy on US Netflix, you can’t on the UK version. So the deal might not have been signed yet, the programme maker may have an exclusive contract with another service in that region, or Netflix has chosen not to stump up the cash to show it in that locality. Services like UnoTelly bypass these region lockdowns.
So whether the service providers like it or not, using a DNS to watch content is currently legal and the benefits for your viewing experience can be very large indeed.
We’ve already mentioned that you can watch US Netflix in the UK, but there’s a lot more than that. There are currently 330 unlocked channels you can watch, with the likes of 4oD, iPlayer and Demand 5 all on the list.
Just a few of the 300 streaming services on offer
iPlayer in particular is a good example of a service that should be available in other countries if you pay your UK TV license fee.
Currently iPlayer blocks you if you attempt to access it while you’re away on holiday. There’s no way to catch up on your favourite soaps or sitcoms abroad, even though you’re still forking out your license fee. With UnoTelly you can watch iPlayer while you're abroad. Nice.
Not only can you set up region-specific settings for the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, you can also change settings on the fly.
Tweaking your settings is simple enough using the Windows 8-like menu
Access UnoTelly’s Dynamo Settings page on its website and you can select which country to stream from. You can even choose whether you want subtitles blocked from Netflix. Up to three countries can be set up at once, so you don’t have to keep flipping when you want to watch from the UK, the US or somewhere else.
UnoVPN, on the other hand, lets you install apps that need a UK or US IP address. So if you want iPlayer on your Xbox One in the US, you can use a UnoVPN UK server to install it. It also keeps your data and browsing private, far more than using Incognito mode on Chrome.
One of the best features of UnoTelly is that there are no bandwidth caps at all. Some similar services have caps, but UnoTelly lets you stream to your heart’s content. We've been heavily using Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video in Full HD and have experienced no throttling issues whatsoever.
Take note, though: there are a few websites that block access via VPN. In fact, some network providers do it, too. We’re not aware of any UK ISPs that practise this, but there are rumours that some US ones may block access to certain servers.
You'll need to get your hands a tiny bit dirty to get UnoTelly working, but don’t let that scare you off. You have to access your device’s DNS settings (and/or VPN if you opt for that feature). Each device has a different method of accessing, changing and saving this information.
Thankfully UnoTelly is a doddle to set up on pretty much any device, thanks to an impressively comprehensive list of how-to guides. We tested it on an iPad Air 2, an Android phone running 4.4 KitKat, a Windows 7 PC, a Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and a PS4. Some of the more popular guides even have step-by-step videos to make it even easier.
Step-by-step instructions are available for hundreds of devices. Some even include video tutorials
In the week or so we've been testing UnoTelly it's performed flawlessly, letting us watch US Netflix and US Amazon Prime Instant from the UK. Crucially we haven’t experienced any slow-down of our general browsing, an issue we’ve found with some of the free DNS services available.
The only time you’ll struggle to set UnoTelly up is if you don’t have certain access rights to your device. If you have a work phone or laptop, for example, you may not have access to the settings that allow you to change the DNS.
Yes, the area may be a little grey, but using a DNS or VPN to access streaming content available in another country is not, currently, illegal. It’s not the same as downloading films and TV programs from shady torrent sites.
UnoTelly is one of the easiest ways we’ve found of exploiting this loophole, and the benefits are tidy. Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video have much richer and more varied libraries in the US compared to the UK.
The question is whether your needs warrant the monthly fee. UnoTelly is one of the cheapest services of its type we’ve seen and comes with unlimited bandwidth. We've found it very useful, but then we watch a lot of Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, and like to have access to iPlayer or other video streaming channels abroad. If that’s the case for you then UnoTelly is well worth the investment.
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