The good news is – with this provider, you’ll get access to more than 2500 servers around the globe (in 20 countries). That means you’ll always be able to find a server that is equally fast, stable, and is located close to home. Plus, Hotspot Shield is very well capable of protecting up to five devices at the same time, which is a golden standard these days. The VPN support Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.
With ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and CyberGhost taking over the market, it is harder for smaller services to compete. However, in this Hotspot Shield review, you’ll learn that there are some worthy alternatives out there. First of all, this product has been around for almost 15 years, and the team had more than enough time to perfect it. Secondly, it boasts 650 million downloads, which is quite impressive.
Today, we’ll talk about all of its pros and cons. We will go over speed, stability, overall performance, security, privacy, and customer support. Plus, we’ll also talk about the company’s pricing policy, check its compatibility with Netflix/other streaming services, and torrenting. AnchorFree, the creator of Hotspot Shield, is one of the mightiest privacy platforms on the planet; still, their VPN is far from being perfect.
What Do You Get with Hotspot Shield?
- kill switch
- military-grade encryption
- 45-day mbg
- decent customer support
- 2500+ servers to choose from
- impressive connection speeds
- up to five simultaneous connections
- unlimited bandwidth
- a free vpn
- privacy-wise, it is a questionable choice
- not the best value for money
- lacks connection stability on far-away servers
- the free plan is very limited
- doesn’t work with Netflix or other streaming platforms
As the pros and cons prove, Hotspot Shield is not a perfect VPN. But, it does have its fair share of advantages that will (and do) attract a lot of customers. We already mentioned that it has 650 million downloads, and with a fan-base like that, the company is constantly working on improving the service. The impressive amount of servers, generous MBG, and reliable connection speeds are its biggest pros.
Privacy and Security
Encryption and Protocols
Both the free and the commercial versions come packed with the best encryption protocol – AES 128 and 256. You are free to choose between the two (128 is a bit faster, but less secure). Thanks to their trademark technology of data compression, the negative effect on the connection speed with the VPN on is minimal. The Hydra tech is excellent at optimizing server connections and providing stability and high speeds.
Remarkable fact: OpenVPN is the only available protocol with Hotspot Shield. True, it is the most popular one on the market, and your device will be well-secured with it. Still, it would be nice to have more protocols to choose. For example, IKEv2 is considered to be the most secure and up-to-date protocol right now.
Along with OpenVPN and the AES encryption, this provider is also packed with a Kill Switch (a feature that automatically cuts the network the second the VPN goes offline). Plus, the users will get DNS Leak Protection, which is another useful feature, especially if you put your privacy first. Here is the list of all the special features:
- Automatic Kill Switch
- DNS Leak Protection
- Unlimited Bandwidth
- Hydra Technology
- Chrome Extension
The Chrome extension is excellent and will make sure your browser is well-secured. Unlimited bandwidth, in turn, means that you’ll get to enjoy unlimited traffic without any limitations. That is different from throttling, which is when the ISP deliberately slows down your connection (for example, when you are torrenting).
Hotspot Shield Logging Policy
To move on with our Hotspot Shield VPN review, let’s talk in more details about the company’s logging policy. We’re happy to say that they follow the zero-logs policy, which means they will have very little to share with the government agencies. Still, keep in mind that the provider does keep minor connection logs along with some other personal info. There’s no telling what “personal info” means in this case.
As we mentioned earlier, if you’re a private person, Hotspot Shield won’t be the best pick for you. Besides, in 2017, Hotspot Shield was accusedof violating its policy and directing the traffic of its customers to third parties (ads, mostly). And that wasn’t the only case of someone accusing the company of not following its own rules. The best picks regarding privacy would be ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and PureVPN, among others.
If you visit the official website, you’ll find information about this VPN’s compatibility with TOR (it works perfectly). However, they claim that this browser offers sluggish performance and has a significant negative effect on performance. That’s true, and according to many experts, there’s no need in using the two together. But if you don’t care much about the somewhat slower connection speeds and want that double layer of protection, go for it.
TOR is a highly secure browser that makes it possible to browse the Internet while staying anonymous. It was initially developed for the needs of the US Navy and works by rerouting traffic through its line-up of servers. Yes, in many regards, it is very similar to a VPN, which is why it’s not necessary to run both (TOR and Hotspot shield or any other VPN).
With privacy and security being our primary concerns, we also wanted to see how this provider performs in real life. We ran the service through a series of speed tests to see exactly how stable the connection is. With more and more people using VPNs for torrenting and streaming, it is vital for the Virtual Private Network to maintain stability and high speeds. Let us take a closer look at every single aspect right now.
Hotspot Shield Speed
During the tests, Hotspot Shield proved to be a capable VPN. It managed to enter the top-5, if not the top-3 of the fastest and most reliable services on the market. The average drop in download speed was 35%; the decrease in upload speed – 13%. That is important: on longer distances, connection stability wasn’t perfect, which is something you should consider if you’re planning on doing that a lot.
At the same time, it won’t be a problem to access US or UK servers from any corner of Europe. Again, compared to the fastest VPNs, Hotspot Shield holds its own and provides stable connections at shorter distances. Please keep in mind that the free version doesn’t give access to servers based in the UK (and to BBC iPlayer, among other platforms).
No Leaks Detected
The next stage of our tests included leak detection. We already talked about Hotspot Shield’s DNS Leak Protection feature, and it works as it should. During extensive testing, no leaks were detected; various experts around the world confirm this. We still need to point out that while the desktop version performed flawlessly, there were some leaks with the Chrome extension.
Torrenting and Streaming
These days, people aren’t buying CDs and DVDs anymore – it’s all digitized. Therefore, streaming platforms like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO, and others are trendy. You might already know that they’ve got some pretty strict laws regarding geo-restricted content. That means if you’re living outside of the US, you won’t be able to enjoy Netflix unless you mask your actual IP with the help of a VPN.
Torrenting is another thing that most users do across the globe, and not only for piracy. People want to share their files with others, and torrents offer the best way to do that. The biggest players in the field don’t support torrenting in their official policies, as it’s illegal. At the same time, it’s usually not a problem to download torrents when using a Virtual Private Network.
Is Torrenting Allowed?
If you’re an avid torrent downloader and are looking for a suitable VPN, Hotspot Shield will be a solid pick. P2P traffic is officially allowed; yet, you’ll still need to be careful not to violate any copyright laws. If you do that, the consequences might be quite unfortunate. The HQ is in the United States, and that country is famous not only for spying on the users but also for the copyright laws.
On the bright side, you won’t experience any throttling, and the ISP won’t report your torrenting activity to the government (again, we’re not talking about piracy). Plus, on the official website, you’ll find a detailed guide on how to torrent using Hotspot Shield and to stay anonymous. And, thanks to the Hydra technology, the download speed will always be above average, even when using far-away servers.
What about Netflix?
There is no short answer to this question, as the VPN is very unpredictable when it comes to unblocking geo-restricted content. It used to work flawlessly in the past, but right now, it’s having difficulties with unblocking Netflix and other streaming services. Customer support claims that the team is continuously working on improving the experience, but, again, it’s not perfect. It would be best to use the free version to test it out.
It’s a known fact that Netflix is very keen on blocking access to its content for users from other countries. The so-called geo-restricted content will be hard to access, even though the Hotspot Shield HQ is in the US. During our tests, we had more luck with outsmarting the UK-based services compared to the ones in the US.
The bottom line is – people that like TV series/shows and movies will be disappointed by this VPN’s performance. While the situation could quickly change in the upcoming future, at the moment of writing this review, it left much to desire. ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and VyprVPN are some of the best picks for unblocking not only Netflix but also other platforms. Netflix is continually updating its blacklist of servers; so, they might also fail in the future.
Other Streaming Options
Firestick and Fire TV are fantastic streaming devices. They allow you to watch all of your favorite movies and series. Sadly, Hotspot Shield doesn’t work with either one, while IPVanish, and, say, BulletVPN are solid picks for that. Some users prefer to install a VPN directly on the router and enjoy a secure and private connection that way. But the router needs to be compatible with the VPN; currently, Hotspot Shield can’t be installed on a router.
The same goes for Kodi (the most popular streaming platform in the world). Apple Smart TVs, Chromecast, Roku, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One are also not supported. We’re not sure why a Virtual Private Network with 650+ million downloads and more than a decade of experience isn’t compatible with any modern-day device/service. Hopefully, the situation will change soon, and Hotspot Shield will become available on every major platform.
How Much Does Hotspot Shield Cost?
With the market being full of worthy contestants, there’s no place for monopoly. For us, the users, this means more attractive price-tags, constant specials, discounts, and free trials. Hotspot shield has been in the business long enough to know how to find the perfect balance between performance and affordability. Here are the available plans:
1-month plan – $12.99
6-months plan – $53.94 (charged $8.99 monthly) save 31%
12-months plan – $71.88 ($5.99 monthly) save 53%
36-months plan – $125.64 ($3.49 monthly) exclusive deal
There’s also a Free Plan available. It is 100% charge-free but comes with limited bandwidth and number of servers and can only protect one device. Plus, you’ll have to deal with ads and significantly lower connection speeds. Finally, 24/7 customer support won’t be available. At the same time, as a free product, it is quite decent and can be used to test the streaming and torrenting capabilities of the premium edition.
The company offers a 45-day MBG (Money-Back Guarantee), which is quite generous. Most products only provide 30 days for testing. With the Premium edition, there’s also a 7-day free trial available. Keep in mind that once the trial period is over, you’ll automatically be charged due to auto-renewal. Don’t forget to turn this feature off unless you want to go ahead and purchase Hotspot Shield.
On the official website, you’ll be able to choose the exact platform that you’re using. That helps to get more detailed, in-depth answers. Just like any other industry-leading VPN, HS offers an extensive knowledge base that covers subscription, payments, account and device management, common issues, and more. There’s no live chat with the free version, which is a pity; but, the users can always send a ticket, and the team is quick to respond.
Moreover, most VPNs on the market don’t have the live chat feature. Besides, with the Premium version, you’ll get access to lightning-fast answers (you might have to wait for the live chat to become available sometimes, though). The FAQ page covers the vast majority of popular questions, and, we were pleased by the professionalism of the agents. In the past, customer support was much worse, and it used to take them forever to help out the users.
Do We Recommend Hotspot Shield?
For users looking for an all-around robust VPN with good connection speeds, excellent security, and affordable yearly plans, Hotspot Shield will be a reasonable purchase. On the other hand, users that put privacy first, won’t like this VPN very much. Furthermore, torrenting isn’t always smooth, and you won’t be able to access geo-restricted content. It’s up to you to decide whether this service is worth your money or not.
The pros do outweigh the cons, and Hotspot Shield is a genuinely good Virtual Private Network. It’s not as flawless as ExpressVPN and NordVPN or as fast as CyberGhost and IPVanish, though.