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Roku is all but the de facto platform for streaming video to your TV. Whether you have Roku built into your television’s OS or you’re moving around with a Roku Stick, you’ll find nearly every streaming service has a Roku app. That may sound perfect for use with a VPN — especially if you’re using a Roku Stick and traveling a lot — but there’s a bit of an issue on that front.
The Roku platform doesn’t allow apps to run in the background, which means you can’t install a VPN app, connect to a server, and route all your internet traffic to a remote server using only your Roku device. To use a VPN with a Roku TV or Roku Stick, you’ll need to have a router you can install a VPN service on — essentially applying the VPN to your entire internet connection. Many of the best VPNs allow you to do that, so it’s possible to put Roku devices on a VPN. Here, we’ll look at two VPNs, one of which is our clear-cut favorite and the other is a backup in case things don’t go as planned with the first. So what’s the best VPN for Roku?
ExpressVPN is an all-around solid pick for a VPN, regardless of whether you’re using it with a router. There are a host of apps available for various platforms, and it works with most major streaming video services. It also posts solid speeds and performance and has a wide range of server locations across the globe.
Our review of ExpressVPN found that it was solidly reliable, and it didn’t noticeably decrease our speeds. That’s a huge deal for streaming video, since a flimsy connection or vast speed reductions can hinder your viewing experience and leave you stuck at a loading screen.
ExpressVPN’s server selection stands out too, with thousands of servers in 89 countries around the world. That makes it likely you’ll be able to connect to a server in the country where you want to watch your Roku content. Since you’ll likely be using your VPN for other tasks, as well, having additional supported countries doesn’t hurt.
Then there’s the actual streaming — as in, will it work or will Netflix block you? In our tests, the big names in streaming — Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. — worked like a charm.
The big kicker for ExpressVPN is that it can do all of the above and also work on your router, which is what will let your Roku use a VPN. ExpressVPN offers a guide to getting it all set up with a compatible router, so it isn’t a hacked-together workaround. The service itself endorses it!
A great all-around VPN, NordVPN is also a very strong choice for Roku users. It can run on your router, making it easy to get devices like Roku protected. However, it’s not quite as fast as ExpressVPN.
If you run into difficulties getting ExpressVPN to work with your Roku device or you’re not able to stream a specific video service you desperately need, you may want to try our number-two pick, NordVPN. This provider is one of the most popular VPN options. It does a lot of things very well, but it also stumbles in a key area, which is why we recommend it only as a backup.
NordVPN’s server selection is also fairly respectable. It has servers in 59 countries, which is fewer than ExpressVPN, so you may find some of ExpressVPN’s locations unavailable with NordVPN.
NordVPN pretty much slays with getting your favorite streaming apps to work. In our review of NordVPN, we didn’t run into issues with the mammoths in the space, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. That’s pretty important for a VPN to do if you’re going to pair it with a Roku TV or Roku Stick.
Where NordVPN sometimes falls a bit short is with speed and reliability. Once a dependable option for streaming video, the company has taken a bit of a tumble. You can perhaps eventually find a server that will perform for you, but it’s not as much of a guarantee as it used to be.
NordVPN, however, does the one thing it really needs to do, which is work with a router and free your Roku device to stream using a VPN. We wouldn’t bet it all on NordVPN because of our concerns about its speed dips, but it’s a good second choice if ExpressVPN isn’t quite getting the job done.
ExpressVPN is a solid pick if you want a VPN for a Roku TV or Roku Stick. It delivers in almost every category, and it can be set up to work on a router. ExpressVPN is our wholehearted recommendation for the first VPN service you should check out for Roku.
NordVPN gets the title of “clear backup,” but it’s only recommended if you have issues with ExpressVPN. Both providers work with most major streaming services, and you can configure both to work with your router. We’d hold off on giving NordVPN a shot until you’re absolutely positive ExpressVPN is a no-go. You don’t want to sign up for NordVPN first, only to find that locating a stable server is a headache.
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