Hotspot Shield and PIA (Private Internet Access) are two VPN providers based in the USA. Hotspot Shield is known for its fast proprietary Hydra protocol and over 1800+ servers in 80+ locations.
On the other hand, PIA uses WireGuard and has over thousands of servers in 84+ countries. Both use AES-256 encryption, allow torrenting, and can be used to stream Netflix US.
These are just a few topics that we’ll be covering in this VPN comparison. We will analyze Hotspot Shield vs PIA on various topics, declare a winner in each category, and summarize the results in the end.
Hotspot Shield vs Private Internet Access: specifications
Before continuing into the comparison, it’s helpful to briefly overview the key features both Hotspot Shield and Private Internet Access offer.
We advise familiarizing yourself with the features listed but remember that do not proceed with the purchase over appealing aspects, as marketing campaigns can use them to persuade you to buy a subscription.
As such, Private Internet Access is a better service than Hotspot Shield.
|⭐Our rating||8.1 ⭐||7.6 ⭐|
|💸Current offer||Get PIA 83% OFF!||Get Hotspot Shield 77% OFF!|
|💰Price starts from||$2.03/month||$7.99/month|
|💳Money-back guarantee||30 days||45 days|
|📖No-logs policy||Audited + court-proven||Not audited|
|🌐Servers||29300+ servers in 84+ countries||1800+ servers in 80+ countries|
|🔒VPN protocols||WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2||Hydra, IKEv2|
|🍿Streaming||Netflix, Hulu, YouTube TV||Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and more|
|🖥️Platforms||All major OS, Linux, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, routers, smart TVs||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, routers|
Hotspot Shield vs PIA: pricing
|Plans and payments||Hotspot Shield||PIA|
|Free trial||Yes, 7 days||No|
|Money-back guarantee||45 days||30 days|
|Payment options||Credit card, Paypal||Credit card, PayPal, Amazon Pay, cryptocurrencies, Beam, Mint, gift cards|
In terms of pricing, Hotspot Shield gains a slight edge by having a free version and a free trial, which PIA lacks. However, Private Internet Access has more plans to choose from, and they are slightly cheaper than the ones offered by Hotspot Shield. Ultimately, this depends on perspective, but from my point of view, PIA is the better option.
Hotspot Shield pricing
Many are probably familiar with Hotspot Shield because of its free plan. Naturally, it has some limitations. The most frustrating one is perhaps the 500 MB daily data cap. Connection speed is also throttled to max out at 2 Mbps. Finally, it lacks the kill-switch and Smart VPN features, meaning you can’t really try out the VPN fully on this plan.
A 7-day free trial is there, but keep in mind that you have to provide your credit card information to be eligible for it. Once you’re ready to buy the VPN you can take advantage of the many Hotspot Shield deals online. Alternatively, the default pricing options are as follows:
- $12.99/month for a monthly plan
- $7.99/month for a yearly subscription
- $2.99/month for a three year subscription
Other plans include additional security apps, such as antivirus, password manager, and a spam-call blocker. There’s also a 45-day money-back guarantee. Finally, there are only a few payment options available, credit cards and PayPal, none of which are anonymous.
Private Internet Access pricing
Private Internet Access does not have a free version or even a free trial. To remedy this, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, which still allows you to try the VPN risk-free.
If you’ve decided to purchase PIA, there are some PIA coupon codes that you can utilize to save up to 83%. Otherwise, the regular pricing plans are:
- $11.95 for a monthly plan
- $3.33/month for a yearly plan
- $2.03/month for three years
The two-year plan offers an additional two months for free and a bonus Boxcryptor license. Boxcryptor is a file encryption program that secures your cloud storage files on Dropbox, Google Drive, and other services.
To top everything off, Private Internet Access has a good variety of payment options, such as credit card, PayPal, Amazon Pay, various cryptocurrencies, and even gift cards.
Now, let’s perform a speed test. Usually, we’d take advantage of our in-house speed test. Yet the fastest protocols for each service (Hydra for Hotspot Shield and WireGuard for Private Internet Access) are not on it.
Thus, our team will do these tests manually with the help of the Ookla speed test. As always, your results may differ from ours as many factors influence the results. Baseline speeds are 294 Mbps download and 319 Mbps upload.
|Download||201 Mbps||206 Mbps|
|Upload||36 Mbps||88 Mbps|
|Download||163 Mbps||229 Mbps|
|Upload||66 Mbps||87 Mbps|
|Download||183 Mbps||291 Mbps|
|Upload||37 Mbps||271 Mbps|
|Download||163 Mbps||246 Mbps|
|Upload||87 Mbps||27 Mbps|
As you can see in the table above, both VPNs delivered fairly good results. And yet, PIA emerged victorious, mainly because of its faster upload speeds, Germany excluded.
Hotspot Shield vs PIA: which is more secure?
|Logging||No-logs policy||Independently-audited and court-proven no-logs|
|Leak protection||DNS, IPv6||DNS, IPv6, WebRTC|
If you’re looking for top-notch security, PIA is definitely the better choice. Let’s zoom in on each VPN individually to see why that’s the case.
Both services are based in the US, the founding member of the Five Eyes alliance. PIA mitigates this by running the whole server fleet solely on RAM modules, supporting crypto payments, and having a court-proven and audited no-logs policy. Hotspot Shield, however, doesn’t take any precautionary steps.
PIA has a bit more credibility as their no-logs policy has been tested when authorities could not get any meaningful information for a court case. Meanwhile, Hotspot Shield has been accused of storing aggregate user data and sharing it with other companies.
|Server specification||Hotspot Shield||PIA|
|All physical servers||No||No|
|Owns all servers||No||No|
When it comes to server infrastructure, PIA is leagues ahead of Hotspot Shield. Private Internet Access has over thousands of servers in 84+ countries, all of which are physically located in those countries, while others are virtual. It does not have full ownership of this massive fleet, however, all hardware is RAM-only. Moreover, P2P traffic is fully allowed.
Meanwhile, Hotspot Shield has 1800+ servers in 80+ countries. Not all servers are physical, it doesn’t have control of the entire server infrastructure, and none of those servers are RAM-only. But at least you can also torrent.
|Smart DNS||❌No||✅Smart DNS|
|Ad & malware blocker||✅Yes (built-in)||✅PIA MACE|
|Split tunneling||✅Yes (SmartVPN)||✅Bypass VPN|
If you’re looking for top-notch features, PIA is definitely the better choice. Let’s zoom in on each VPN individually to see why that’s the case.
Regarding Smart DNS services allowing users to bypass geographical restrictions, Hotspot Shield falls short, offering no such feature. In contrast, Private Internet Access (PIA) comes equipped with this beneficial feature, enabling users to access content on devices that don’t support VPN software natively.
Ad & malware blocker
Ad & malware protection is essential for a safe browsing experience. Hotspot Shield offers this feature, and so does PIA. However, PIA goes further with its specialized ‘PIA MACE’ system for robust ad and malware blocking.
Split tunneling allows users to decide which traffic is sent through the VPN and this feature is available with both services. While Hotspot Shield offers the standard version, PIA offers a Bypass VPN, providing enhanced flexibility.
Private Internet Access offers specialty servers:
- Obfuscated servers. A must-have if you want to bypass online censorship and VPN blocks. This is because these servers mask VPN traffic as regular HTTPS traffic, which usually does a great job of circumventing Deep Packet Inspection (DPI).
- Streaming servers. For easier geo-block bypassing and better streaming performance.
And Hotspot Shield isn’t far behind, offering:
- Auto. Great for general browsing (up to 1 Gbps).
- Streaming. For Netflix, YouTube, and other video platforms.
- Gaming. For playing Fortnite, Roblox, and other online games.
- Social networks & chat. For TikTok, WeChat, and other social media websites.
Additionally, Private Internet Access includes a SOCKS5 proxy and port forwarding. And Hotspot Shield has Auto-protect, which automatically turns on the VPN once you connect to an unsecured Wi-Fi network, and a built-in password manager called 1Password.
Netflix and streaming comparison
|Streaming platforms||Hotspot Shield||PIA|
|Other Netflix libraries||✅Yes||❌No|
|Amazon Prime Video||✅Yes||❌No|
If streaming is a priority, Hotspot Shield is the better option. Nevertheless, both VPNs were able to unblock Netflix US and stream content in HD without any issues. At the same time, Hotspot Shield could unblock other countries’ libraries, while PIA could not.
On the other hand, Private Internet Access includes Smart DNS, which Hotspot Shield does not have. Users looking for higher streaming speeds without encryption may find this especially helpful.
Determining a clear winner is challenging in this category, as some might prefer access to multiple streaming platforms, while others prioritize SmartDNS for a smoother streaming experience. But if we go by sheer ability to unblock content, Hotspot Shield is better.
|Device support||Hotspot Shield||PIA|
|Major dedicated apps||Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android||Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android|
|Other dedicated apps||Android TV||–|
|Browser extension||Chrome, Edge, Firefox. Brave, Opera||Chrome (and other Chromium-based browsers), Firefox|
|Manual setup||Routers, Amazon Fire TV Stick||Routers, consoles, smart TVs|
Regarding compatibility with streaming platforms, both Hotspot Shield and Private Internet Access show promising performance. However, there’s a notable distinction in the dedicated apps. Hotspot Shield extends its service to major platforms, including the addition of Android TV.
Diving into other device supports, both VPNs are compatible with routers. However, Hotspot Shield takes a slight lead by supporting Amazon Fire and offering side-loading. Regarding browser extensions, both offer extensions for popular browsers ensuring a comprehensive browsing experience.
While Hotspot Shield permits up to 10 devices, Private Internet Access goes a step further, offering unlimited simultaneous connections. Furthermore, PIA works with gaming consoles and smart TVs.
Some users might prioritize the flexibility of connecting more devices, while others look for flexibility with compatibility. Considering this lies in the type of user, we call it a tie.
Hotspot Shield’s desktop interface is user-friendly with a clean design. Connecting to servers is easy, just a click away. The map-based server selection adds a visual touch. However, advanced options might be lacking for power users.
On the other hand, PIA offers a straightforward desktop interface. Connecting and server selection are uncomplicated. The settings provide advanced options for customization, suitable for tech-savvy users seeking more control.
Hotspot Shield’s mobile app boasts a simple interface. Connecting is swift, and server selection is hassle-free. Its one-tap feature is great for quick protection.
In contrast, PIA’s mobile app keeps things simple yet effective. Connecting to servers is extremely easy, as the interface is intuitive, and both beginners and experts find this easy to use.
|P2P specifications||Hotspot Shield||PIA|
|Allowed on||✅All servers||✅All servers|
|Free SOCKS5 proxy||❌No||✅ Yes|
|Split tunneling||✅Yes (Windows, Android, macOS, iOS)||✅Yes (Windows and macOS0|
|Port forwarding||❌No||✅ Yes|
Thankfully, both services do not restrict P2P traffic on their servers. Yet, it should come as no surprise that since PIA has more security features than Hotspot Shield, it is also the superior choice for torrenting.
For starters, it has a free SOCKS5 proxy, allowing you to secure your torrenting client. Both VPNs have split tunneling available, yet PIA’s is a bit more customizable. Finally, PIA supports port forwarding, ensuring a better torrenting experience if you’re required to seed.
|Works in China||❌No||✅Yes|
|Stealth VPN||❌No||✅Yes (Obfuscation and Shadowsocks)|
|Tor over VPN||❌No||❌No|
The situation with China is constantly changing in the VPN context. One thing is certain, though – only one of these two services is suitable for China. If you plan on traveling there, you can also choose alternative options from our list of best VPN services for China.
Private Internet Access has the Obfuscation and Shadowsocks feature, which could work in China. It might not work all the time, but it’s better than Hotspot Shield, which doesn’t have any features dedicated to this issue and simply does not work in China.
|Support options||Hotspot Shield||PIA|
|24/7 live chat||✅ Yes||❌No|
|✅ Yes||✅ Yes|
|Knowledgebase||✅ Yes||✅ Yes|
There are a few significant distinctions between Hotspot Shield and Private Internet Access regarding customer service. Both VPN services offer live chat, email support, and a knowledge base to help users with their questions and issues, ensuring that clients have many ways to get assistance.
However, the standout difference is the availability of support. Hotspot Shield offers round-the-clock customer support, ensuring users can obtain help whenever needed. Unfortunately, Private Internet Access lacks one. Also, there is no phone number for customer support for both VPNs.
Considering all these factors, Hotspot Shield emerges as the winner, primarily due to its 24/7 support feature, ensuring users are provided with assistance.
Hotspot Shield vs PIA – which is better?
|Total wins||5 out of 10||2 out of 10|
It was an exciting competition, but the results are in – Private Internet Access is the better choice. PIA is faster with WireGuard, has an enormous number of servers to choose from, is slightly cheaper, and offers more security features.
After losing a few points, Hotspot Shield recovered. It is superior when it comes to streaming. After that, PIA once again scored some points. This time, it proved to be well-equipped for torrenting and browsing in restrictive countries like China.
In conclusion, Hotspot Shield is better suited for streaming on some devices, while PIA is meant for overall security.
Is Hotspot Shield better than PIA?
PIA is better than Hotspot Shield. It facilitates better speeds, has a larger server network, includes more features, and is great for torrenting and accessing content in China. Plus, it is cheaper.
Which is faster – Hotspot Shield or PIA?
PIA is faster than Hotspot Shield. This can be attributed to having a massive server network across the globe and better implementation of WireGuard.