Imagine boosting your Netflix library by 5000 additional titles. Sounds pretty cool, right? This is exactly what the monthly subscription service TurboFlix purports to do. You've probably seen it advertised on Facebook and wondered what the deal is. Is it legal? Is it a scam? Is it worth the money? Here's what you need to know.
What is TurboFlix and how does it work?
In short, TurboFlix (website here) is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) — no more, no less. Like other VPNs, it allows the user to access geo-blocked content on the internet by running the traffic through a different server which has the effect of anonymising your IP's geographic location.
In other words, it essentially "tricks" foreign web services into thinking you live inside their country or another permitted region. This is particularly handy for streaming platforms like Netflix, which offers a wildly divergent catalogue of titles in each country it operates in. For example, it's estimated that Netflix US has six times as much content as Netflix Australia.
If you're a binge watcher who can never get enough movies, the advantage of a VPN becomes obvious. (For more on Virtual Private Networks and how they work, check out our in-depth VPN guide.)
So how does TurboFlix differ from other VPNs? Hardly at all. It's main point of differentiation is that it markets itself specifically to Netflix users. The UI and setup process are heavily geared towards this singular purpose. It also includes step-by-step guides for Netflix-compatible devices such as smart TVs and video game consoles — handy if you don't want to be tied to your laptop.
If Netflix is the only reason you want a VPN, it makes sense to go with TurboFlix. Otherwise, pretty much any VPN provider will do the same trick. We've collected some of our personal favourites here. You might also want to take a gander at Getflix and UnoTelly which provide similar Netflix-friendly front ends.
How much does it cost?
TurboFlix's standard pricing is $US3.99 per month, which works out to $AU5.42 at the time of writing. This compares favourably to other VPN providers — most of TurboFlix's competitors cost between $US7 and $US10 per month. On the other hand, many of these services provide more features than TurboFlix and aren't aimed at one video streaming service.
You can also get a free trial of TurboFlix without handing over your credit card; a business model it cheekily cribbed from Netflix.
What's the quality like?
As with any Virtual Private Network provider, TurboFlix requires the user to stream content from the country of origin. This can result in degraded image quality as the data has further to travel. Opinion is mixed on TurboFlix's performance in Australia and may depend on the strength of your home internet connection. Needless to say, you can expect things to be a bit ropier compared to the local service — it will still be watchable but the quality of streamed images will generally be lower.
So is any of this remotely legal?
Geo-blocking is one of those emerging technology trends that remains legally ambiguous. Netflix has different licencing deals in place for each country it operates in, which is why the titles it offers aren't universal. Circumventing these blocks can hurt Netflix's relationship with its partners.
While you won't be breaking an existing laws by using TurboFlix, you are absolutely breaking Netflix's terms of service. You explicitly agreed to adhere to these rules when you originally signed up. If you get caught, Netflix is perfectly within its rights to ban you from its service. At present, Netflix doesn't seem to be actively hunting Australian geo-blockers but that's not to say it won't do so in the future.
Anything else to be mindful of?
If you have unmetered Netflix access with your ISP, bear in mind that accessing the US version will count towards your quota. This is definitely something to consider if you're connecting via mobile or have a modest data allowance.
Another problem with overseas VPN providers is that it can be difficult to tell if they're trustworthy. You should never assume that a foreign VPN provider is as committed to privacy or subject to the same laws as the ones that operate locally. Some VPNs happily log your data and will turn it over to anyone who asks.
This doesn't necessarily mean that your data is secure though — as we've noted in the past, many of the most popular VPN services have critical security flaws. Mind you, the same can be said of any online service — just look at the recent Sony PlayStation Network and eBay hacks, for example. As with anything in life, use at your own risk.