With streaming TV becoming so popular, we’re spoilt for choice these days. However, for some, there’s one holy grail they’re still interested in – the American streaming services (or versions of them) that only tend to work in the US.
Watching American streaming services in the UK (and other countries) can be difficult – some companies try to prevent you from doing that, because of licensing issues. So a common solution is to use a VPN, but that has its drawbacks – so today I’m looking at another type of solution: StreamLocator.
The StreamLocator hub, which is basically a WiFi router with some tricks up its sleeve, gives you access to US streaming services on basically any player that connects to the internet via WiFi. And, it promises to be easier and more accessible than a VPN.
But along with its many advantages, it also has a few issues. So in this review, I take a look at what StreamLocator can do, how easy it is to use – and whether it’s the right service for you, when considering the cost.
Quick Look – StreamLocator
What is it: A WiFi hub that lets you bypass geo-restrictions on some popular American (and others) streaming services. The cost is between £31-£66, depending on the length of your subscription (And you also need to pay the subscription costs for the individual streaming services, though some are free).
Ease of Use
- Supports a lot of international streaming services (Including 8 Netflix countries)
- Easy to install and use
- Works with almost every streaming device (including mobile phones and smart TVs)
- The Hub’s WiFi speeds are a bit slow
- Not particularly cheap for what it does
Supported Streaming Services:
- Netflix (8 countries), Hulu, Peacock, Prime Video, Disney+, CBS All Access, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Showtime and a lot more.
Whether you’re an ex-pat missing your local US television, or just someone who wants to watch a wider variety of content that’s currently geo-restricted, this is a great solution, which is – for the most part – easier to use than a VPN. It comes at a cost, however, and the connection speed could be better.
Table of Contents
What Is StreamLocator?
While there’s no shortage of streaming services in the UK, there’s no denying that the American selection is better.
Services like Hulu and HBO Max don’t even exist on our side of the pond, and others – like Netflix – have a wider (or simply different) selection of titles in the US than they do in the UK.
The problem is that these US services are geo-blocked. That means that if you try to watch them (or even just access their website) from the UK, you’ll be told that you can’t, because of your location.
One solution that a lot of people use for bypassing Geoblocks is a VPN service – but VPNs have their limitations as well:
1. Many VPNs are actively blocked by Netflix and some of the other streaming services (so sometimes you can’t even watch in your own country with a VPN turned on).
2. Most streaming devices (like the Roku players or Smart TVs) don’t support VPNs and don’t have apps for them – so there’s no way for you to directly use the VPN for bypassing geo-blocks.
This is where the StreamLocator comes in: it’s a small WiFi hub that connects to your existing router (usually the one you got from your internet service provider), and then creates its own unique WiFi network, which is separate from your regular WiFi.
At that point, you can connect any player to that special WiFi network (instead of your regular home one), and StreamLocator will take it from there, using a mix of DNS proxies: if you run the Netflix app, it’ll “put you” in the location of your choosing (which you choose via a page on StreamLocator’s website). If you run Hulu, it’ll think you’re in the US, and so on.
And best of all, it’s all done automatically – StreamLocator knows which service you’re trying to use (as long as it’s supported), and will automatically route you to the “correct” country.
How Much Does StreamLocator Cost?
For the service to work, you need two components – the hardware (the StreamLocator hub) and the subscription.
When you first subscribe to StreamLocator, you also get the hub as part of the package (it’s free if you go for the 12-months plan). Currently, there are three subscription tiers (the prices are originally in $, so might change occasionally with the exchange rate) –
- 3 Months for £31.99
- 6 Months for £42.99
- 12 Months for £65.99
Once your first subscription is over, it will automatically renew at $6.99/month (currently around £5.30).
Also, it’s important to remember that StreamLocator just lets you access those services (as if you were actually in the US) – you still need to subscribe and pay for the actual streaming service (Netflix, HBO, etc’).
Setting Up The StreamLocator
This part was quite easy. You connect the hub to your existing router with the supplied Ethernet cable, then go to the StreamLocator website and enter the hub’s serial number.
At that point, you set the new WiFi network’s credentials (remember the password!) and… that’s it.
The second stage is done on the devices where you want to watch the geoblocked content. So on your Smart TV, for example, you would now need to change the way it connects to the internet.
If your TV is currently connected to your home’s WiFi network, you connect it instead to the new StreamLocator WiFi network that you just created. And the same goes for your mobile phone, streaming stick, laptop, etc’.
On devices like phones and PCs, it’s pretty easy to switch between WiFi networks – so you can switch to the StreamLocator’s network only when you want to stream something – and switch back when you want to connect to your “regular” network.
And, StreamLocator automatically assigns the “right” country to each service, even on different devices at the same time. So you can watch a US-based service in the living room, while someone is watching a supported service from France in the kitchen.
Using The StreamLocator
Once everything is connected, using the service is easy, as the country-routing is done automatically for you. There’s one hurdle, though: getting the apps.
You see, streaming devices these days require you to sign in with an account – and that account is assigned to a specific country. So if your Amazon Fire TV, or your Roku, for example, are registered with a UK account – they won’t let you download US-only apps.
StreamLocator’s website does offer some guides on how to bypass this issue – but keep in mind, it does make things a bit more complicated.
So if you’re planning to mostly watch these US services on your laptop (via the browser), that’s easy enough. But if you want to watch them on a streaming device (or smart TV) – get ready for some more hoops you’ll have to jump through.
And then there’s the payment issue – some of the US-based services (like hulu, for example), only let you subscribe with a US-based card. There are ways around those issues as well (buying US gift cards, for example) – but again, that’s another hurdle to cross.
Netflix, however, is easier with this: the selection you see on your Netflix app isn’t tied down to where your account is, but where “you” are. And with StreamLocator, you can choose where you want to, well, be – among 8 countries: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Korea, Brazil and Mexico.
Netflix’ catalogue on each of these countries is somewhat different. So if, for example, you’re a big fan of Korean dramas – you’ll find plenty of them on the Korean version of Netflix (though not all of them have English captions!).
(There’s one limitation here – all EU countries are part of the same Netflix “group” – so if your Netflix subscription is based in the UK, you won’t be able to switch to other EU countries – so no France and Germany).
There are also some free (ad-based) streaming services like Pluto and Tubi – again, StreamLocator does its thing automatically when you try to access those services, and the US geo-blocking magically disappears.
StreamLocator’s Speed and Range Issues
The one main drawback I noticed when I tested the service, is the hub’s limited range and speed.
Despite me having a 200Mbps internet connection, devices connected to the StreamLocator hub only managed to give me a speed of around 20Mbps (even when being quite close to the hub).
And the WiFi range is also somewhat limited – so if you move to a different floor, the speed can decrease even further.
That being said, for HD streaming, 20Mbps should be enough (even if two people are watching separate feeds at the same time). In my testing, streaming services were a bit slower than usual to do their buffering and switch into Full-HD mode, but they did after a minute or two.
It does get tricky, however, if you want to watch 4K streams – especially more than one at the same time.
This low speed also means that if you connect your laptop or your mobile phone to the StreamLocator’s WiFi network, then it might be a good idea to re-connect to your regular network once you’re done streaming – to get back to your normal speed.
To address this, StreamLocator are planning to release a new Hub in the near future, which will support faster 5Ghz connections (the current one only supports 2.4Ghz) – I’ll update when that happens.
The Bottom Line: Is The StreamLocator Good For Me?
This service is a bit of a mixed bag – depending mainly on how far you’re willing to go (and “work”) in order to be able to watch streaming services from other countries.
Yes, it’s easier to use than a VPN, and is compatible with more devices – so people who are less technical are seemingly the right audience. But then… you face the issue of installing foreign apps, and paying for US-based services – which is NOT that easy for people who are less technical.
Plus, the service isn’t very cheap, especially when you consider the need to pay for the actual streaming services in addition.
So, I would say this: If you’re mainly interested in watching other Netflix countries, OR you’re going to watch on your laptop (where you don’t need country-specific apps), then StreamLocator will work like a charm for you.
If, however, you’re planning to watch on a Smart TV or a streaming stick – and you want to watch more than just Netflix – then be prepared to do some more work.
Note: The StreamLocator was supplied by the manufacturer for this review. As always, this did not influence my unbiased opinion of the product.