- Why You Need a VPN for HBO Now
- Best VPN for HBO Now 2021
- Choosing the Best VPN for HBO Now
- 1. Best VPN for HBO Now: ExpressVPN
- Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
HBO Now is one of the better streaming platforms available. We pointed it out in our how to watch Game of Thrones guide, but the platform has more to offer than dragons and fantasy. In addition to the evolving library of curated movies, and shows such as Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, HBO Now has something for everyone.
Every U.S. citizen, that is. Though HBO is available in around 50 countries, HBO Now is only available in the U.S. Like Hulu, HBO Now has the latest movies and TV shows streaming, and distributors like to keep a tight grip on who can watch what (read our best VPN for Hulu guide).
There are ways around that, though. In this guide to the best VPN for HBO Now, we’ll show you how a virtual private network can open the streaming floodgates. Using our best VPN reviews, we curated five providers that will access HBO Now and provide a pleasant streaming experience in the process.
Why You Need a VPN for HBO Now
As mentioned above, HBO Now is only available in the U.S., so everyone else around the world is out of luck. There is a way to bypass that geoblock and unlock the content HBO Now has to offer, though.
By using a VPN, you can trick HBO Now into thinking you’re located in the U.S. A VPN assigns you a new IP address, which is what HBO Now uses to detect what country you’re located in. For example, if you wanted to stream BBC iPlayer, you would need to use a UK IP address (read our best VPN for BBC iPlayer guide).
Before connecting to HBO Now, you’ll first connect to a server owned by the VPN provider that’s located in the U.S. To HBO Now, it’ll look like you just connected from the VPN server, meaning you can stream from anywhere in the world.
For those who have been around the tech bend, you’ll know the same thing can be accomplished with a proxy, but, as we pointed out in our VPN vs. proxy vs. Tor guide, using one is generally a bad idea. Unlike a proxy, a VPN encrypts your initial connection, making it next to impossible to identify who you are.
Simple route tracing can point your connection back to you if you’re using a proxy, but it can’t with a VPN. By encrypting your connection, the VPN server acts as a block, allowing you to tunnel without enabling others to trace your connection back to you.
That means a VPN will not only get you connected to HBO Now, but it’ll keep you protected in the process. With the onslaught of spying and snooping on connections, a VPN is a key safety measure that puts your privacy back in your hands.
Best VPN for HBO Now 2021
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, regional payment systems, WebMoney
- : 5
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin
- : 7
- : Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, UnionPay, Crypto Currencies, PayPal (via Paddle)
- : 6
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 8
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 10
Choosing the Best VPN for HBO Now
Though the idea of using any ol’ VPN with HBO Now works on paper, it doesn’t work in practice. HBO Now, along with most other streaming platforms, has systems in place to detect if you’re using a VPN. Before starting our list, we whittled down the options by seeing if a provider could even access the platform.
Breaking through once isn’t enough, though. We test access to streaming platforms across multiple servers, and only the providers that can consistently access those platforms rise to the top. For example, VPNArea will get you into Netflix, but only on particular servers in the U.S. (read our VPNArea review).
Speed plays a big part in the streaming experience, too. Unless your internet service provider is throttling your connection, a VPN will take some amount of your internet speed. By adding another server into the mix, you’re increasing the network overhead. That said, just because there’s speed degradation that doesn’t mean your connection needs to be slow.
The providers we selected have little difference between protected and unprotected speed. It’s less important with HBO Now than it is with, say, Netflix, because HBO Now doesn’t support HDR or 4K streaming (read our best VPN for Netflix guide).
Though not particularly concerning for HBO Now, security and privacy are always a focus when you’re using a VPN. We chose providers that offer the best in VPN security, protecting you and what you’re doing online from anyone sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong.
Outside of that, we also looked at price, ease of use, server locations and customer service, but those areas were peripheral. Though they’re important, we were willing to trade, for example, user-friendliness for faster speeds.
1. Best VPN for HBO Now: ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is the best VPN for streaming, so it’s no surprise that it’s the best VPN for HBO Now, too. Between its easy to use interface, ultra-fast speeds and no-nonsense approach to privacy, ExpressVPN is the perfect VPN for almost anything. That said, its ability to bypass geoblocks makes it especially good for streaming.
When it comes to streaming, there aren’t many providers that can match ExpressVPN. During our testing, it was able to bypass most geoblocks consistently. It struggled with Amazon Prime and Hulu, but only on a few servers. With Netflix, BBC iPlayer and HBO Now, it accessed the platform no matter which server we tested.
Its speeds are great, too. ExpressVPN took the crown in our fastest VPN guide by maintaining most of our unprotected speed no matter where we were tunneling. Though staying quick close to home is commonplace, ExpressVPN is rare in that it stays fast over long distances. Because HBO Now is only available in the U.S., that resilience is important.
There are plenty of locations to choose from in the U.S., as well. ExpressVPN has 21 locations there that span from New York City to Los Angeles, with a surprising number of options in the Midwest. Most of the U.S. servers support all of ExpressVPN’s protocols, too, so you can use the level of security you’re comfortable with.
Other Reasons We Like ExpressVPN
Everything else about ExpressVPN is, frankly, great. Though it doesn’t have the bells and whistles of some providers we’ll mention in this guide, it makes up for its shortcomings with a solid core service.
In short, that means no matter where you’re tunneling from or to, ExpressVPN can deliver. Its fast global speeds balance one of the more formidable problems VPNs face, and its ready-to-go mentality makes finding a server and configuring the application simple. It’s easy enough for a newbie to get started while retaining advanced configuration for tinkerers to mess with.
The only downside is ExpressVPN’s high price tag. Compared to some providers, ExpressVPN is expensive, but compared to, say, Hide.me, it’s not too bad (read our Hide.me review). ExpressVPN doesn’t have the worst prices, but you’ll spend more on average.
You can learn more about the pricing and features in our ExpressVPN review or try it yourself with its 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Large server network
- Excellent security
CyberGhost has always been a great service, but its old interface left a lot to be desired. The update to version 7 has made it into a force to be reckoned with, though, streamlining the user experience and adding a slew of new features in the process.
It’s easier than ever to access its specialty streaming servers. Unlike ExpressVPN, CyberGhost has a list of locations catered to streaming. There are around 50 locations, each optimized for a different streaming platform, including HBO Now. Platforms that have regional restrictions, such as HBO Now, have locations in the country they’re native to.
Though the streaming servers don’t seem to be doing anything special, CyberGhost leaves no doubt as to which location you should choose for streaming HBO Now. From our testing, the servers work across platforms, too, so a UK server optimized for BBC iPlayer may work with Netflix, as well.
As for speeds, CyberGhost isn’t the best, but it’s not bad, either. When using OpenVPN, the initial drop in speed is deep, but using IKEv2, which CyberGhost installs with, results in much faster speed.
Other Reasons We Like CyberGhost
Unlike ExpressVPN, features are one of CyberGhost’s key selling points. In addition to the streaming servers, it includes torrenting servers. They don’t do anything different in terms of speed or security, they’re just set aside for data-hungry peer-to-peer connections. Because of those specialty servers, CyberGhost earned a spot in our best VPN for torrenting guide.
One of the more interesting features, though, is built-in automation. CyberGhost allows you to set “smart rules.” They tell it what to do after, say, connecting to a server. For example, you could tell CyberGhost to launch your browser after connecting or tell it to only use the VPN on certain WiFi networks.
Though we’ve seen hints of that functionality with other services, CyberGhost’s implementation feels the most complete. You can learn more about smart rules, as well as CyberGhost’s other features, in our CyberGhost review or try it with its 45-day money-back guarantee.
- Smart rules
- Specialty servers
NordVPN has a lot going for it, including high top speeds, a massive server network and a long list of features. It still falls below ExpressVPN, though. As you can see in our ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN comparison, NordVPN is best placed as a silver medalist, capable of doing more than ExpressVPN but with far less consistency.
It does everything it should, but the large server network often fumbles. Instead of presenting you locations, NordVPN lets you choose the individual server you want to connect to. As it goes with most technology, not every server performs the way it should at all times, so the likelihood of finding one that’s experiencing issues is larger than with other providers.
During our testing, we connected to servers that simply didn’t work multiple times. When the stars align, though, there’s no service quite like NordVPN. It can break nearly any geoblock, including HBO Now’s, and maintain some of the fastest speeds we’ve seen.
That requires input from you, though. If you want to dive in, ExpressVPN is more “plug and play.” NordVPN requires you to get your hands dirty, but doing so will pay off.
Other Reasons We Like NordVPN
NordVPN’s list of features is among the best. It starts with CyberSec, a built-in ad and malware blocker. Unlike PureVPN, which seems to use its ad blocker as a marketing point rather than a functional tool (read our PureVPN review), CyberSec works quite well, but we still recommend looking at our best antivirus software for a more well-rounded solution.
Like CyberGhost, NordVPN includes specialty servers, but none are optimized for streaming. Instead, they can aid in security or privacy. For example, the Tor servers will protect your identity by bouncing you off several servers before connecting, and the Double VPN servers will add a second layer of encryption to your connection.
NordVPN is cheap, too. Though the monthly plan isn’t impressive, the multi-year contracts bring the monthly price to less than a few dollars. You can see the pricing scheme in our NordVPN review or try it with its 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Large server network
- Included ad blocker
- Inconsistent performance
TorGuard is a favorite here at Cloudwards.net, even if it isn’t the best VPN for everyone. It isn’t the most inviting option on the market, but the level of configurability it offers is unmatched. Thankfully, it’s not all knobs and buttons. Beneath the control panel is a solid service that accesses most streaming platforms with fast speeds.
It does so consistently, too. TorGuard sat alongside ExpressVPN in our fastest VPN guide for its resilience across multiple locations. That said, TorGuard’s average speed is lower. Though most locations perform well, the occasional dud hinders what would otherwise be excellent results.
As for server locations, TorGuard isn’t too impressive, but it has a focus on the U.S. which makes it a great choice for HBO Now. There are locations across the U.S., including data centers in Dallas, Chicago and Atlanta.
TorGuard has some of the best security we’ve seen, too. With enough VPN protocols to make your head spin and a focus on configurability, it can accommodate whatever security setup you want.
Other Reasons We Like TorGuard
As mentioned, TorGuard’s strongest aspect is its customizability. You not only get to choose which protocol you use, but also the type of encryption, the message authentication method and the key size. Though for most people the difference between AES-256-CBC and AES-256-GCM doesn’t matter, those who want to configure their security can.
That flexibility is expanded upon with support for custom scripts and app kill, which allows you to set a killswitch on certain applications. For example, you could tell TorGuard to block the internet connection to your torrenting client if the VPN fails and leave your browser untouched.
Custom scripts are available before connection, after connection and after disconnection. You’ll need to write the scripts and point TorGuard to them, but the level of flexibility is unmatched. As a simple example, you could tell TorGuard to launch Chrome in Incognito Mode after connecting.
Despite its dated appearance, there’s a lot to like about TorGuard. You can learn more in our TorGuard review or see how you like it with a free week-long trial.
- Highly configurable
- Support for custom scripts
- Difficult for newbies
5. Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access’ minimalist approach can be annoying for those who prefer to be hands-on with their software, but the flexibility and value of the service are undeniable. PIA is one of the cheapest options around, and though that’s usually a red flag, PIA has a proven track record.
Despite the humble interface, PIA is powerful. It took second place in our fastest VPN guide, falling just short of ExpressVPN’s weighted average. Though it installs with AES 128-bit, which has upsides for speed, we tested it with AES 256-bit. Thankfully, PIA’s speed remained intact, even after the security was increased.
It has trouble with most streaming services, but HBO Now worked during our testing. PIA’s location in the U.S. means there are plenty of server options to choose from, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a server for HBO Now.
Though a VPN being located in the U.S. is usually a point of concern, PIA has proven that it stands up for user privacy. It has been called into court twice for users committing crime while using the service, and even under a subpoena, it has been unable to provide any user information.
Other Reasons We Like Private Internet Access
PIA recently updated its interface, and though the client is still tied to the tray, we’re fans of the changes that were made. One seemingly insignificant addition is night mode, which darkens the blinding background and illuminates the text instead. Given the recent night mode update to Windows Explorer, PIA’s slick new interface can match what’s on your desktop.
There are more advanced features, too. PIA includes MACE, which is a malware and ad blocking tool similar to CyberSec. It uses a list of known domains that serve ads and blocks them while you’re browsing, so we recommend turning it on and waiting so it can take full effect.
Like TorGuard, PIA has a lot of customizability, which is surprising considering how minimal the application is. You can set your key size, cipher and data authentication method, as well as the cipher and key size of the network handshake.
Though not as deep as TorGuard, PIA’s customizability stands out. Usability woes aside, PIA is a solid service with a fair price tag. You can learn more in our Private Internet Access review or try it with its seven-day money-back guarantee.
- Night mode
- Annoying to use
HBO Now has a lot to offer, so it’s a shame that only U.S. residents can access the platform. With a VPN, though, you can be anywhere in the world and still enjoy Game of Thrones, True Detective, The Sopranos and more.
Before getting too deep into your Westeros lore, make sure to check out our streaming archive. There, you’ll find ways to watch movies and TV shows around the web. We’ll not only walk you through the process of streaming, but also show you how to do it securely.
What are you streaming with HBO Now? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.