Like most people, you probably use a VPN to unblock your favorite Netflix shows. If you’re not sure what that’s about, here’s a quick rundown: VPNs hide your IP (so your geo-location) from Netflix to let you unblock its content. You can find out more about which VPNs to use by following that link. Just look up the name of the show/movie you want to unblock, and StreamCatcher will show you which VPNs to use.
But if you are familiar with VPNs, it’s time to answer a different question – can you use the VPN to stream Netflix in Ultra HD?
After all, VPNs slow down your speeds by encrypting your traffic. So, is that possible?
Yes, it is – but you might have to optimize your speeds a bit. We’ll show you how to do that (and answer some relevant questions) in this quick guide.
What Speeds Do You Need to Watch Netflix in Ultra HD?
Netflix doesn’t require absurdly fast speeds. But to watch it in 4K, you’ll need over 25 Mbps.
For most people, that should be achievable. But if your ISP speeds are slow (around 30-35 Mbps or so), it could be difficult to achieve stable 25 Mbps.
We can’t really tell you what slowdown percentage you can expect to see with a VPN. All VPNs slow down your speeds differently. And the slowdown is different for each VPN user.
We did run some tests, though. We tested the speeds from 10+ top VPNs using three different servers from each provider (one in our country, one in a neighboring country, and one in a distant country). We only used the OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols. On average, we experienced a 30-50% slowdown.
How to Increase Your 4K Netflix VPN Speeds
We researched multiple threads on Reddit and Quora to see what people said worked for them. We then tested the most popular tips to see which ones worked. What follows is a list of the speed optimization pointers that were successful for us:
1. Use a Server Whose Location Is Close to You
When you use a VPN server that’s too far away from your current location, your speeds will automatically be slower.
Because the distance will make it take longer to transport data between the VPN app installed on your device and the VPN server you’re connected to. The slowdowns become very noticeable when you connect to a VPN server that’s on a different continent.
So try as much as possible to only use VPN servers that are near your country (or in your country). If you have no choice but to connect to a far-away server to unblock content, see if you can pick the city – maybe you can find one slightly closer to you (like a US server on the East Coast if you’re from Europe instead of the West Coast).
2. Only Use Fast VPN Protocols (Not OpenVPN)
Pretty much everyone tells you to use OpenVPN – and for good reason: it’s extremely secure. But OpenVPN wasn’t built with speed in mind. We always see big slowdowns with OpenVPN (especially on far-away servers) because it’s single-threaded (it only uses one CPU core – the one your OS uses). Due to that, the encryption-decryption process takes longer.
We recommend using WireGuard if it’s available. It’s almost as secure as OpenVPN, but significantly faster. L2TP/IPSec and IKEv2/IPSec are good alternatives too.
Just don’t use PPTP if it’s available. It’s extremely fast, but it’s not secure at all. Using it could put your Netflix login credentials and payment information in danger.
3. Check the Server Load and Ping
Many VPNs show you two important pieces of information:
- The server load – it shows you how many active users are connected to a server (it tells you how overcrowded it is).
- The server ping – it tells you how long it takes your device to communicate with the server (the higher the ping, the lower the speeds).
Do your best to connect to a VPN server that has low ping and a small server load (ideally under 30%).
4. If Split-Tunneling Is Available, Use It
Split-tunneling lets you choose which traffic goes through the VPN, and which traffic goes through your ISP’s network. The less data to encrypt/decrypt and route, the faster your streaming speeds will be.
We recommend split-tunneling Netflix traffic through the VPN, and leaving everything else outside the tunnel.
5. Stream over Ethernet, Not WiFi
WiFi is always slower than ethernet because the signal’s strength influences your speeds (and it becomes weak when you move too far from the router – like in a different room).
So do your best to use an ethernet cable. You can buy long ones online so you won’t need to sit right next to the router with your device.
6. Turn Off Background Apps
Online apps running in the background can hog your bandwidth and speeds – especially if you have slow connections.
So turn off apps you’re not using while watching Netflix in Ultra HD (like Discord, Steam, Skype, uTorrent, and so on).
Can VPNs Increase Your Original Speeds?
Usually, no. VPNs aren’t designed to increase users’ original ISP speeds. That’s just not how they work. VPNs are 100% reliant on your original Internet connection. And your connection to the VPN first goes through your ISP’s network, like so:
You à ISP Network à VPN Server
However, a VPN could improve your speeds if your ISP is throttling your speeds very often (intentionally slowing them down) while you watch Netflix. The VPN encrypts your traffic, so your ISP can’t see that you’re communicating with Netflix. Without that crucial piece of information, they won’t be able to selectively slow your speeds down.
How Do You Boost Your Netflix VPN Speeds?
We mentioned all the tips which we tested and worked for us. But which speed optimization tips do you use? Please mention them in the comments. Also, if you know which VPNs offer very fast speeds while streaming Netflix in Ultra HD, please let us know.