There are many ways to achieve success in the VPN market. Some services innovate and create unique features to attract customers. Others don’t deviate as much and instead try to improve on the existing formula. Whatever path they choose, success is not guaranteed.
This time we’ll be comparing Hotspot Shield vs ExpressVPN. Hotspot Shield is a VPN that’s known for delivering fast connection speeds, having a free version, and being a good overall VPN. Meanwhile, ExpressVPN is more expensive than the average VPN, but it performs insanely well on many fronts.
But are the differences vast enough for one to be better than the other? Let’s see in our detailed comparison of the two. We’ll be looking at such key criteria as pricing, performance, device compatibility, streaming & torrenting, and more.
Hotspot Shield vs. ExpressVPN: specifications
In this comparison, it’s not surprising that ExpressVPN is the winner. It provides broader server coverage, fast download speeds, and superb security and supports multiple cryptocurrencies as payment, among other features. This VPN is very versatile, and definitely worth every penny.
|Get ExpressVPN 49% OFF!
|Get Hotspot Shield 77% OFF!
|💰Price starts from
|Court-proven and independently audited
|3000+ servers in 105+ countries
|1800+ servers in 80+ countries
|Lightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP
|Hydra, IPSec/IKEv2, WireGuard (Android-only)
|Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and more
|Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and more
|All major OS, Android TV, Fire TV & Fire Stick, Kindle Fire, Chromebook, Router applet, Kodi, Roku, browsers
|Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS, routers
ExpressVPN vs Hotspot Shield: pricing
|Plans and payments
|Yes (Android or iOS)
|Credit card, PayPal
|Credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, Paymentwall (AliPay, UnionPay, and more)
When it comes to their prices, Hotspot Shield is the winner of this category because it’s more affordable than ExpressVPN. Plus, it has a longer money-back guarantee and there’s a free version, albeit a bit limited in its capabilities. But let’s take a closer look at the price tags of both providers.
Hotspot Shield pricing
Hotspot Shield offers a free version and a 7-day free trial for its paid plans. Additionally, all plans come with a 45-day money-back guarantee, which is longer than the industry standard of one month. Here is a list of the plans you can get:
- Monthly Premium – $12.99/month
- Monthly Premium Family – $19.99/month
- Annual Premium – $7.99/month
- Annual Premium Family – $11.99/month
First off, this VPN has a free version. Understandably, it comes with significant limitations – you can only connect to the US, you get a daily allowance of 500MB of data, slower connection speed, and limited video streaming features.
Payment options are a bit slim for Hotspot Shield – you can only pay via credit card or PayPal. And if your expectations don’t get met, there’s a generous 45-day money-back guarantee. The lack of anonymous payment methods isn’t ideal, though.
ExpressVPN offers a 7-day free trial for Android and iOS users and a 30-day money-back guarantee across all plans. Overall, its plans are only slightly more expensive than Hotspot Shield’s:
- Monthly for $12.95/month
- Six months for $9.99/month
- Yearly for $6.67/month
ExpressVPN does not have a free version. And if the trial version is not enough, you could just take advantage of their 30-day money-back guarantee and refund the service if it isn’t satisfactory. Referring friends to ExpressVPN is also an option, and if they sign up, then both of you gain 30 days of extra subscription time.
You can buy an ExpressVPN subscription with a credit card, PayPal, AliPay, UnionPay, and more. Additionally, you can use multiple cryptocurrencies to purchase a plan anonymously, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, XRP, USDC, BUSD, PAX, and GUSD.
Although it is a close race, ExpressVPN is the winner of the speed category because it outperforms Hotspot Shield in both downloading and uploading speed.
More specifically, ExpressVPN uses the Lightway tunneling protocol, which is a proprietary protocol that allows it to have blazing-fast speeds. Additionally, it has a broader server network, providing more reliable performance to many users worldwide.
On the other hand, Hotspot Shield uses the in-house Hydra tunneling protocol, which also boasts fast performance. However, it has fewer servers in fewer countries and uses WireGuard for Android only. However, it’s not enough to beat ExpressVPN in terms of sheer speed.
ExpressVPN vs Hotspot Shield: which is more secure?
|British Virgin Islands
|Independently-audited and court-proven no-logs policy
|DNS, IPv6, WebRTC
The duo is not on even ground in terms of security. But some common details occur, so let’s start with those. As is tradition with VPNs, these two use the industry-standard AES-256 encryption cipher. Both also share a kill switch feature and have no issues with IP or DNS leaks. But the similarities end here.
ExpressVPN is leagues better in terms of security due to the privacy-friendly jurisdiction, a very strong audited no-logs policy, and RAM-only hardware that ensures no data can be logged or stored on the servers.
In comparison, Hotspot Shield is based in the US of all places and hasn’t had its no-logs policy audited to verify that it actually doesn’ collect user information. And there are no RAM-only servers as assurance no shady things are happening behind the scenes.
Hotspot Shield is based in the US, a member of the 5/9/14-Eyes Alliance. As such, it operates in a country with data retention laws. Additionally, the provider has not been audited so far, so the no-logs policy has not been confirmed.
On the other hand, there are no headaches when it comes to ExpressVPN. It is based in the British Virgin Islands, which is a privacy-friendly jurisdiction and not a member of the 5/9/14-Eyes Alliance. This means that ExpressVPN does not log, store, or share your data and online activity with the government.
Additionally, ExpressVPN provides anonymous payment options, while Hotspot Shield does not.
In order to ensure that the VPN you use does not collect your logs, you need to check whether it has been independently audited. In Hotspot Shield’s case, the provider has yet to be audited by an independent third party, so its no-logs policy is not confirmed.
Meanwhile, ExpressVPN has been audited by PwC, which proved that the provider does not collect any logs. Furthermore, it was found to be true in court.
|Owns all servers
There are a lot of similarities between the server infrastructures of these VPNs. Server count and country choices are very close – 3000+ servers and 105+ countries for ExpressVPN and 1800+ with 80+ countries for Hotspot Shield. With such large numbers, it’s not surprising that neither one has full ownership of their server fleet.
However, ExpressVPN has one ace in its sleeve that can turn the tide of this stalemate. It provides better performance and speed to more users. Additionally, the service utilizes 10 Gbps servers, which provide fast connections. Also, it runs on RAM servers, while Hotspot Shield does not.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that ExpressVPN is the winner in this category.
|Ad & malware blocker
In the features category, both providers are almost equal. However, ExpressVPN has the upper hand because it provides Smart DNS. But in terms of other perks, these services go toe to toe and are fairly equal.
With Smart DNS, you can connect devices that do not support VPN software to your VPN provider without installing an app. So, with this feature, you can work around geo-blocks and secure your connection across many platforms. Of the two providers we are comparing, only ExpressVPN offers Smart DNS via its MediaStreamer.
The split tunneling feature lets you choose which sites and apps you want to use a VPN on and which you don’t. Both Hotspot Shield and ExpressVPN offer split tunneling, allowing you to customize your connection.
ExpressVPN provides split tunneling for Windows, macOS, Android, and routers, while Hotspot Shield’s split tunneling is compatible with Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
Ad & malware blocker
Both providers have measures in place to enhance the safety of your browsing experience.
ExpressVPN uses a Threat Manager, which protects you against user trackers and targeted advertisements. This tool uses a blocklist to prevent your apps from interacting with malicious third party websites, and it works even for the apps running in the background. However, it does not block ads completely.
Hotspot Shield uses a built-in antivirus that stops you from opening malware sites, spam sites, content farms, and infected websites. However, it is not as good as the standalone antivirus solutions, but it does work great alongside them. There’s also a built-in ad blocker on all servers, even the free ones, however, it’s efficiency is subpar at most.
ExpressVPN uses specialized servers to provide different services. Namely, it offers Stealth servers, which allow you to hide the fact that you are using a VPN. Additionally, they can unblock websites that implement VPN-detection measures and enable you to use ExpressVPN even in countries that block VPNs, like China.
Also, ExpressVPN’s TrustedServer is a highly-secured RAM-only server that boosts your security and minimizes data risks. Finally, there are streaming-optimized servers for better stream quality and zero video lag.
On the other hand, Hotspot Shield uses specialized servers for general browsing, streaming, gaming, and social networking and chatting (TikTok, WeChat).
As for other perks, Hotspot Shield has Auto-protect, which automatically turns on the VPN once you connect to an unsecured Wi-Fi network. Then there’s 1Password, a built-in password manager. ExpressVPN also offers one aptly called Express Keys, port forwarding, and Parallel connections.
Netflix and streaming comparison
|Other Netflix libraries
|Amazon Prime Video
One place where these two providers really shine is streaming. Both had no issues unblocking various Netflix libraries, and other streaming services were hardly a problem as well. We easily accessed Hulu, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, and plenty of popular content platforms with Hotspot Shield and ExpressVPN.
However, ExpressVPN has a slight advantage because it provides a Smart DNS solution – MediaStreamer. It enables the service to unblock content on almost any streaming peripheral you want. Meanwhile, Hotspot Shield lacks one, and it’s a shame as it would make it on par with other great VPNs for streaming.
|Major dedicated apps
|Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android
|Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android
|Other dedicated apps
|Android TV, Fire TV & Fire Stick, Kindle Fire, Chromebook, Router applet
|Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Brave, Opera
|Chrome (and Chromium-based browsers), Brave, Edge, Firefox, Opera
|Routers, Amazon Fire TV Stick
|Router, NAS, nVidia Shield, Kodi, Roku, Chromecast
ExpressVPN has been on a winning spree through the last few categories and device compatibility will not stop that. It’s available on all major platforms, has numerous dedicated apps for a lot of different devices, including Amazon Fire TV and Fire Stick, Android TV, and even routers. Browser extensions are available for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. Finally, manual setup is possible for Chromecast, nVidia Shield, Kindle Fire, and Nook HD. With so many supported devices it’s almost a shame that you can only have 5 simultaneous connections.
Hotspot Shield does not have such an impressive array of supported devices, but there is some overlap with ExpressVPN. It’s available on the same major platforms, has dedicated apps for Fire TV, Fire Stick, and Android TV. Browser extensions are only available for Chromium browsers like Chrome and Edge. Additionally, manual setup is possible on a variety of routers, such as DD-WRT, Asus, and FreshTomato. But unlike their nemesis, Hotspot Shield supports 10 simultaneous connections.
ExpressVPN offers dedicated apps for Windows and macOS. They are nearly identical across both operating systems and are robust when it comes to security. What’s more, you can expect the same features to be available no matter which client you’re using.
Hotspot Shield looks slicker after the latest redesign, which we welcome. And while the provider maintains great security on both Windows and macOS apps, there is a glaring difference in terms of features. The customization options are more limited with the latter, and you can mostly just toggle split tunneling.
Both ExpressVPN and Hotspot Shield have Linux apps that you control via the command line terminal. The former is compatible with Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, Raspberry Pi OS, Linux Mint, and Arch, while the latter works with Ubuntu, CentOS, Debian, and Fedora OS distros.
Both ExpressVPN and Hotspot Shield support iOS and Android devices. And they look identical to their desktop counterparts, with some minor changes to better fit mobile screens. With ExpressVPN, you get the same features no matter which app you’re using, minus split tunneling, missing from the iOS client.
As for Hotspot Shield, the differences are more noticeable. There’s no option to toggle the general settings in the iOS client, and you don’t get WireGuard either, with IKEv2 taking its place. But it also includes certain exclusives the Android lacks, such as the option to re-install a VPN profile and privacy settings.
|✅All (except the free version)
|Free SOCKS5 proxy
|✅Yes (Windows, Android, macOS, iOS)
|✅Yes (Win, Mac, Android, routers)
Torrenting and P2P is another area where this duo is almost on par, yet ExpressVPN once again inches forward. This time, port forwarding is the feature that pushed it across the finish line.
Besides that, both providers allow P2P traffic on all of their servers. Neither one has a SOCKS5 proxy, which would make them great contenders for the best VPN for torrenting. Luckily, both VPNs do have split tunneling features.
|Works in China
|✅Yes (Stealth servers)
|Tor over VPN
If you’d like to climb over the Great Firewall of China then in this case you only have one option – ExpressVPN. Hotspot Shield used to work a few years ago, but lately, users have been reporting connection issues. Plus, there are no dedicated features available to get around such censorship.
Meanwhile, ExpressVPN still works remarkably well in China thanks to its Stealth server feature. It ensures that your VPN traffic is masked and looks like regular internet traffic. However, it’s still not the best option out there.
|24/7 live chat
When it comes to customer support, these two providers can definitely see eye-to-eye. But there are some minor differences as well.
First off, both have 24/7 live chat options available. However, Hotspot Shield made this feature exclusive to paying customers, which isn’t very nice from a free users’ perspective. But I suppose it’s to ensure that premium users get priority. Naturally, since ExpressVPN does not have a free version it does not have to deal with this dilemma.
If a support agent from either service cannot solve your issue immediately, it will be converted to a support ticket instead and communication will continue through email. And you can always troubleshoot issues yourself by perusing through their support page guides.
Hotspot Shield vs ExpressVPN – which is better?
|1 out of 10
|8 out of 10
Finally, we have reached the finish line. The results are clear – ExpressVPN is the superior choice. But that doesn’t mean that Hotspot Shield is a bad VPN. In fact, it could have other strengths. Let’s review our journey here.
The connection speed of these providers was very close. Both are using proprietary protocols so it’s definitely an interesting matchup. But ExpressVPN won because their upload speeds did not lag far behind their download speeds. Hotspot Shield secured a small victory by being the cheaper option of the two. Of course, further examination showed just why it’s cheaper – it did not win in any further categories.
ExpressVPN has more security options, better privacy practices, supports a larger variety of devices, works better for streaming, torrenting, and getting around censorship-heavy countries. Finally, both are on par at customer support.
The verdict – ExpressVPN has a substantial price tag, but it’s justified by the number of features. Meanwhile, Hotspot Shield is cheaper and pretty fast, but we’d argue that the small feature list could warrant a bigger price drop. As it stands right now, there are better VPN services out there that are worthy of your attention.
Is ExpressVPN better than Hotspot Shield?
Yes, ExpressVPN is better than Hotspot Shield. It covers more countries and regions worldwide, is more secure, provides faster performance, and offers Stealth VPN and SmartDNS, while Hotspot Shield doesn’t. Still, Hotspot Shield can hold its own quite well.
Which is faster – Hotspot Shield or ExpressVPN?
ExpressVPN is the faster option because it covers more countries than Hotspot Shield and maintains more servers. Additionally, it uses RAM-only and 10 Gbps servers.
Can I watch Netflix with ExpressVPN?
Yes, you can easily watch and unblock geo-restricted content on Netflix with ExpressVPN. It works with other streaming services as well.
Is ExpressVPN worth the money?
ExpressVPN is pricier than most VPNs, but it works really well across the board. However, you might want to look into cheaper options if you only need a VPN for a few specific things.