Setting up a VPN may seem pretty easy. The trouble it good ones like IPVanish have a few options that most “how to install” articles and videos don’t ever talk about.
With that in mind, I decided to create my ultimate guide to using IPVanish VPN on Android TV. We’ll cover installation, how to use the app and what recommended settings that I use.
In order to follow along, you’ll need to sign up for an IPVanish account already. If you don’t have one, you can follow this link to signup.
I’ve written this tutorial as a really basic, start to finish guide. You can read it from start to finish, but feel free to use the table of contents below to skip ahead to just read the sections you need.
Throughout this guide you’ll see blue boxes like this with important information or critical settings.
How to Install IPVanish on Your Android TV
The first thing you need to do is to download the IPVanish app from the Google Play Store or Aptoide TV app store. We’ll cover the Google Play Store method first, and touch on the Aptoide TV app store after that.
Install IPVanish From the Google Play Store
To get to the Google Play Store, click on the red ‘Apps’ icon on the home screen then click ‘Get more apps.’
Once you’ve opened the Google Play Store, click on the magnifying glass icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. This will open the Search window.
Search for IPVanish.
It should be the first result you see. Click on the app icon to continue.
You’ll know it’s the right app when you see “IPVanish VPN: The Fastest VPN”, as it appears in the image above.
Click Install to continue. Once installation is complete, you can either Open the app from this screen, or from the App Drawer on your device’s home screen.
We’ll pick up with the process immediately after the next section, which talks about how to install IPVanish from the Aptoide TV app store.
Install IPVanish from Aptoide TV
If you use the Aptoide TV app store instead, click on the res ‘Apps’ icon then find the Aptoide TV icon in your app drawer.
Once you’ve started Aptoide TV, click on the magnifying glass icon in the upper-left hand corner of the screen to pull up the Search menu.
Search for IPVanish.
Similarly to Google, Aptoide TV shows the official IPVanish VPN app for Android TV as the first result. Click on it to continue.
Click Install to continue. Once installation is complete, you can either Open the app from this screen, or from the App Drawer on your device’s home screen.
How to Use IPVanish
When you first start the IPVanish Android TV app, you’ll see a splash screen with the logo while the app loads. Once it’s finished, you’ll see a screen where you can enter your username and password to Log In to your IPVanish Account.
Enter your username and password to continue. If you haven’t set up your account with IPVanish yet, you’ll have to do that first.
Once you’ve successfully logged in, you’ll see another splash screen before being dropped off at the main screen. You can see that screen in the image below.
The design of the app is very simple to understand and use. There are two menu options in the upper right-hand corner. They take you to your Account information and the Settings menu.
We’ll discuss the Settings menu in more detail in the next section.
The Account icon provides some basic information on your account, such as your email address, account status, whether your subscription is active or not, and when it’s up for renewal.
You can’t change any information on this tab, but it’s a nice way to get a quick glance at your account without having to go to IPVanish’s website.
The left hand menu is broken down into four main tabs:
The most important is the Connect tab, so let’s look at that one first.
The simplest way to connect to a VPN is by clicking on the Connect tab on the home screen of the IPVanish Android TV app.
If you click on the Connect button without changing any of the Country, City or Server options, IPVanish will automatically connect to the best available server, no matter where it’s located in the world.
Once you click Connect, the app’s home screen changes and the other tabs go away.
In their place is a graph that visually shows what your upload and download performance are in real-time. The most recent data is on the right-hand side of the screen and gradually scrolls to the left as time passes.
In the image above, you can see the first few seconds of my connection to a server in Montreal. It’s normal to see these spikes and valleys, so don’t be alarmed when it looks like this.
In the upper right-hand corner of the graph, you’ll see the upload and download speeds of the data packets being transmitted right now. When you first connect, these numbers will be low, like you see here. As you start doing things on the VPN (especially streaming), you’ll see these numbers go much higher.
Once connected, you can minimize the IPVanish app and go back to your Android TV home screen to open another app.
When you’re finished with the VPN connection, or if you want to change to a different server, click on the red Disconnect button on the left-hand side of the screen.
In the next sections, we’ll cover how you go about specifying which country, city or server you want to connect to.
In this menu you can select the country that you want to connect to by selecting their flag. Don’t worry about selecting different regions at this point. We can get more specific on the Cities tab.
IPVanish has over 1,500 servers in seventy-five different locations around the world. At the time of this writing there are:
- 476 servers in over 30 countries in Europe
- 45 servers in Asia
- 846 servers in North America
- 83 servers in Australia and New Zealand
- 37 servers in South America
- 11 servers in Africa
Here’s a current list of server locations (not the servers themselves) straight from IPVanish’s website.
Which Country Should You Connect To?
Choosing which country to connect to in your VPN seems like a fairly easy decision. Any country you choose will keep your data private and secure, right?
There are a couple of schools of thought to choosing the right country in your VPN app.
You’ve probably seen an error message telling you the content you want to watch isn’t available in your country. In fact, the main reason I use a VPN is to get around geo-restrictions.
To bypass streaming restrictions in your country, connect your VPN to a country that’s allowed to view the content that you’re trying to watch.
The most popular reason people use VPN’s is to keep their activities private on the Internet. However, choosing the wrong country to connect to can be as bad as not having a VPN at all.
Several countries have agreements to share intelligence and data with each other. These agreements are called the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and Fourteen Eyes Alliances. (source)
If privacy is your main concern, you’ll want to choose a country outside the reach of those agencies. The two security professionals recommend most are Switzerland and Romania.
For private browsing, connect your VPN to a country that has strong policies on Internet freedom, like Switzerland, Romania or Iceland.
If you download movies or music using torrents, it’s critical to choose the right country. Here, you want to connect your VPN to a country where torrenting is legal, and one that has a good network infrastructure.
For safe, Peer-to-Peer torrenting, connect your VPN to Spain, Switzerland or Mexico.
Security on public networks
Finally, if you’re connecting to a network that you don’t explicitly control, you can secure your data with a VPN.
This isn’t normally the case at home unless your WiFi is provided by your neighbor, apartment complex or school’s dorm.
In this case, feel free to choose a server in the United States, or whatever country you live in. Alternately, you could skip choosing a country entirely and connect to the fastest server.
To security on public networks, connect to a server in your home country or simply connect to the Fastest Server option.
The City Tab can help you narrow down your servers to specific cities. Once a country is selected, the list will filter down to only cities in that country. If no country has been selected, IPVanish will show an alphabetical list of every city where they have VPN servers.
If you’re connecting to a server in your own country, you’ll want to connect to a server in a city that’s close to where you live. The less physical distance that your data has to travel, the faster the connection should be.
Another reason to select a specific city is that it opens up local search options since you’ll appear to be browsing from that city.
In my experience, it’s usually not worth selecting a specific city to connect to unless you’re interested in those local results. It’s better to select the fastest server in the country and just search for whatever you’re looking for.
We’ve seen how we can connect to a VPN server in a specific country or city. The Server Tab takes this one step further by letting you choose which physical server to connect to.
By default, the Server Tab defaults to the best available server. Usually this is the server with the lowest ping response time and lowest overall capacity. However, some VPN’s have servers dedicated to specific tasks (streaming or torrenting, for example).
In most cases, it’s best to leave this as ‘Best Available.’ However, if you want to have a little more control, there are two ways to see which VPN servers are going to be the fastest.
In the Server tab, you’ll see numbers along the right-hand side for each server name. These are the ping response times. Without getting too technical, this is the time (in milliseconds) that it takes to send a small packet of information to the server and back again.
Lower numbers are better.
Another way to tell which server to connect to is on the IPVanish web page.
When you log in to your IPVanish account, one of the buttons along the top row will read Server List. Clicking on it will show a list of the servers, much like you see in the image above.
Instead of showing server ping response times, you’ll see the overall load of the server. In this case, most servers are between 30%-40% capacity. However, you can see there are three servers (colored green) that have the lowest utilization.
In theory, fewer users on the servers mean they should be the faster than servers with a lot of users.
The great thing about the IPVanish Android TV app is that it looks at the server ping times and server utilization when figuring out what the best available server is.
Unless you’re having trouble connecting to a specific server, I recommend leaving this tab alone.
How to Use IPVanish: Recommended Settings
In this section, I’m going to go through each of the settings that you can change in the IPVanish Android TV app.
If you’re familiar with IPVanish on other devices, you may see some settings you’re not familiar with. Similarly, you may not be able to find some settings that you would on other devices.
For each item, I’m going to give you a little overview of what that setting means and then my recommendation.
The first section of settings determines what happens when you first startup your Android TV device, or when start the IPVanish app. These two settings are related, so we’re going to discuss them at the same time.
Check the first box and IPVanish will quietly load in the background immediately after booting up.
However, this won’t actually connect to a VPN unless you choose a Startup connection action as well.
Personally, I found this to be a little confusing. I even found myself restarting my NVIDIA Shield TV a few times, just to make sure I wasn’t doing anything wrong.
Clicking on the Startup Connection Action setting will take you to this menu:
By default, this is set to Do Not Automatically Connect. You can choose to automatically connect to the fastest available server or the last server that you were using in your last session.
Recommended Setting: I don’t need to use a VPN all the time, so I leave the Connect on Android start-up box unchecked.
Recommended Setting: When I open IPVanish, I want to have the fastest possible connection so I leave this set to Connect to fastest server.
The rest of the settings in the IPVanish Android TV app fall in the Connection section.
Here we can configure some basic settings like whether we want traffic to our local network to go through the VPN. We’re also going to find more detailed settings like which protocol and port the VPN will use to connect.
No network connection is perfect. If your VPN connection suddenly drops, enabling Auto Reconnect will automatically reconnect to the same server that you were previously connected to.
Often this happens without you even being aware that the connection had been broken.
Recommended Setting: Always enable Auto Reconnect.
Allow LAN Access
What makes a VPN secure is that it creates a private tunnel from your device to the other device that you’re talking to. It works similar to a garden hose. There’s a solid connection between the faucet and the end of the hose so that all the water goes directly from one end of the hose to the other.
However, because all network traffic is going through that secure hose, that makes it impossible to see anything else on your local network. For example, if your media library is stored on a network hard drive, your Android TV wouldn’t be able to see it.
That’s where the Allow LAN Access setting comes in.
Checking this box will exclude any local traffic from going through the VPN connection. Any device on your local network will be able see your Android TV as if it weren’t connected to IPVanish at all.
Recommended Setting: Check Allow LAN Access if you have a media server on your network or you need to share files to your Android TV device. If not, leave it unchecked.
On a similar note, you can use Split Tunneling to allow one app to reside outside the VPN connection.
It used to be easy to use a VPN to get access to content in other countries. However, some streaming apps, like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, will kick you off if you try to connect to them using a VPN.
In many cases, they look at the IP address of the VPN server or even what protocol you use to connect. If it matches certain criteria that they’ve seen from VPN users before, they’ll deny your connection.
What Split Tunneling does is it processes data packets for one app to bypass the VPN. You have to specify which app, and you can only do this for one app at a time.
Still, if you want the protection of using a VPN all the time, but are having trouble with certain apps, this is a great workaround.
Recommended Setting: Unless you’re having problems with a specific app not working with a VPN, you can leave this unchecked.
Open Application After Connection
We’ve already talked about how you can have IPVanish start automatically when you boot up your Android TV, and have the app automatically connect to a VPN server. You can also have IPVanish open another app immediately after it connects to a VPN.
Many people use Open Application After Connection to automatically connect to a VPN server and open Kodi as soon as they turn on their Android TV.
Once you click on the this setting, you’re taken to another screen that lists every app you’ve installed on your device. Similar to Split Tunneling, you can only select one app.
Scroll down until you see the app you want, then click the radio button next to it.
Recommended Setting: This setting is pure convenience. If you always go straight from IPVanish to another app (Kodi for example), then this is a no-brainer. If you don’t, then leave this unchecked.
Scramble is a setting you can change only if you’re using the OpenVPN protocol that we’ll discuss in the next Settings section.
What Scramble does is try to mask your connection to fool servers into thinking that you’re not using a VPN. This is useful in countries where VPN’s are illegal, but it can sometimes help fool apps like Netflix or Amazon Prime Music into thinking that you’re not connecting via VPN.
Enabling Scramble does have the potential to slow down your VPN connection, which makes sense. The VPN server is taking a little extra time to try to hide your connection. Even if that delay is only a few milliseconds, it could be enough to slow down your video stream.
Recommended Setting: For the fastest VPN connection, leave this unchecked. Only turn Scramble on if you’re having trouble connecting to some streaming services.
The next three settings all have to do with how IPVanish connects to different VPN servers and what protocols it uses.
Here you can change to protocol between OpenVPN and IKEv2 Beta. If you’re using OpenVPN, you can switch between UDP and TCP, and even change what port your Android TV is using to connect.
VPN Protocol: OpenVPN vs IKEv2 Beta
IKEv2 Beta (Internet Key Exchange version 2) is part of an authentication suite known as IPSec. As a protocol, it’s extremely customizable, however telling IPVanish to use this protocol actually removes a lot of your connection options. (source)
All that customizability comes at a price, however. It’s slower to connect than OpenVPN and more easily countered by software that wants to restrict users connecting through VPN’s.
Recommended Setting: If you care more about privacy than speed, use IKEv2 Beta (IPSec). For any other use case (especially streaming video), use the OpenVPN protocol.
Protocol: TCP vs. UDP
If you choose to use OpenVPN, the next setting you need to look at is the protocol itself. Here you can change between TCP and UDP.
Unlike most of the other settings we’ve discussed so far, there’s no one right answer here.
TCP is used much more often than UDP, even though it’s a slower connection overall. The benefit to using TCP is that it has built in error-correction, whereas UDP doesn’t.
If all that sounds too technical for you, you’re not alone. VPNMentor developed a really helpful chart that sums up the differences between the TCP and UDP protocols.
|Sequencing||TCP numbers each packet so they can be arranged in a sequence by the recipient||UDP sends the packets without numbering|
|Header size||Packets are heavy because of overheads||Lightweight packets with minimal headers|
|Error detection/correction||Error checking and error recovery||Error checking but no recovery. Corrupted packets are simply discarded and not requested again|
|Acknowledgement||Acknowledgement sent by the recipient||No acknowledgement is sent|
|Transfer method||Stream||Individual packets|
|Applications||File transfer, email, web browsing||Video conferencing, gaming, broadcasts|
Recommended Setting: For most streaming applications, use the OpenVPN(UDP) protocol. For web browsing or email, where accuracy is more imporant than speed, use OpenVPN(TCP).
I’ve been using IPVanish as my personal VPN ever since the NordVPN hack back in 2018. Since then, I’m really happy with the performance and the results.
With the default settings, IPVanish is extremely simple to use. What I really like about it is that it also gives you some great configuration options if you want a little more control.
Overall, I think IPVanish is a great choice, and by far the best VPN for Android TV devices.