CactusVPN SmartDNS Summary
CactusVPN offers a great VPN service, so it comes as no surprise that their SmartDNS service is also very well designed and implemented. While there are some minor downsides and a few improvements that could be made, on the whole we give them a big “thumbs up.”
Pricing & Plans
CactusVPN provide SmartDNS as both a standalone package and as a combined VPN package. Their SmartDNS package is well priced at $4.99/month, but if you sign up for a year you can get it for as low as $3.25/month.
It is possible to easily get a seven day free trial in order to test their service just by entering your name and email address, which is more than adequate in our opinion. Once you sign up, they also have a 30-day money back guarantee, but this is only possible to claim on this if any of the channels that they have unblocked are inaccessible to you – so do make sure you fully utilise the free trial.
To get a CactusVPN SmartDNS account you can pay with PayPal, credit / debit card, CashU, Alipay and a few other options.
CactusVPN is a small and relatively new VPN company based in Moldova. Don’t let this put you off though, as they get a lot things right – from support to software.
They have unblocked 131 channels in 4 countries, and have these nicely organised on their website so you can easily find out if the streaming service you are looking for is unblocked. As with all SmartDNS services, CactusVPN SmartDNS allows you to use it from as many devices as you want as long they are all connected via the same external IP address.
While SmartDNS services do not concentrate on security, it is appreciated when they highlight how they use any of the information you provide for them. While CactusVPN clearly outline that they don’t pass your information to third parties without your consent, we do wish their terms of service was slightly more detailed.
Channels & Devices
CactusVPN has unblocked streaming channels in four countries – the US, UK, Germany and Poland. It’s no surprise that they cover all the important channels such as Netflix, Hulu and iPlayer, as well as plenty of other sport, music and video streaming services – a selection of which you can see in the image below.
The big advantage of SmartDNS is that you can use it on a lot of devices. While the CactusVPN SmartDNS set-up guides are very useful and detailed there aren’t that many – though they do have a general one. They explained to us that this is due to the fact that they have access to all the devices, which means that if you do have any problems along they way then they should definitely be able to help you.
The CactusVPN website is well laid out and it’s easy to differentiate between their VPN and SmartDNS services. They have also put plenty of effort into making sure that they have separate FAQs, support areas and set-up guides – something that a few SmartDNS & VPN providers neglect.
They keep their blog and social networks well up-to-date with information and helpful tips relating to both their VPN and SmartDNS services. Unlike some of the dedicated SmartDNS providers, they do not keep a blog on upcoming and available shows on different channels. However, we do not think this is a major concern, as you can find this information elsewhere.
Being a small company, it’s pleasantly surprising that CactusVPN has both ticket and live support. The live support is usually available 0800-1700 CET on business days – so it’s not 24/7 but still very good. When we used it, they were very helpful and friendly. The experience with the support ticket was just as good and we received a reply in under 24 hours.
To sign up to Cactus VPN, alongside the normal information (name, email & password) you’re also required to enter your address, but as you’re likely be doing this for payment anyway, this doesn’t cause any major issues in our eyes – especially as SmartDNS is not an identity protection system. The rest of the process is easy and we had our account set up in seconds.
The CactusVPN SmartDNS client
CactusVPN provides software for both Mac and Windows that can help you with setting up your SmartDNS connection. They have DNS Servers for 3 different continents in order to be able to unlock all the channels they provide. Using the client, you can also select if you wish to use UK or US Netflix, as well as control a number of other settings such as whether to connect at start-up.
On their website you can also set up a DDNS host name if you have one, which can make keeping track of your IP easier. They also have a link you can bookmark that can do this quickly and easily from a Web browser if you’d prefer this option.
Setting the service up manually was very easy due to their step-by-step, image filled setup guides. They even make it easy to check that you’re connected in order to make sure that you can browse your favourite streaming channels.
Performance (Speed and DNS)
As usual for a SmartDNS there was no speed loss. Since their location selection covers large areas (continents to be specific) it’s no surprise that they use Google DNS in order to achieve most of their DNS location spoofing, but of course they do some computation themselves. There are no known problems with using this method and we could easily access any of the channels they say are unblocked. Setting Netflix region was a doddle via their website.
We had no problems with following the set-up guides on our Android tablet and checking to make sure we were connected. Overall, their cross platform support, while limited, is very good.
Other/ Free Services
As mentioned, CactusVPN does run a VPN service which we have reviewed (link in the summary). This also includes access to their proxy service, but unfortunately this isn’t available to SmartDNS users.
- Seven-day free trial
- Great value
- 131 popular streaming channels
- Friendly and knowledgeable support
- Easy to use client for both Mac and Windows
- VPN and proxy available too – though at a slightly higher price
We weren’t so sure about
- Limited setup guides
- Have to change between US and UK Netflix through their website
- Only four countries unblocked
We found using the CactusVPN SmartDNS service to be a very pleasurable experience. While the countries unblocked and number of devices they have setup guides for could be increased, overall the performance and overall impression of the company is favourable. Put this alongside this the fact that they are one of the cheapest SmartDNS providers out there, and you’ve got yourself a great deal!