A fast VPN that supports Windows, Mac, Android, and iPhone, Hotspot Shield also unblocks Netflix, allows P2P, and has 24/7 live chat support. Even though there are concerns about logging in the past and few smartphone features, Hotspot Shield is still a good choice to enhance your security online.
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This Hotspot Shield VPN review looks at the main pros and cons of this popular VPN service and evaluates where it stands among the competition. This provider comes with a cybersecurity suite, including 1Password, Robo Shield, and Identity Guard. That’s a great deal if you’re looking for more than just a VPN.
Hotspot Shield is fast due to its in-house Hydra tunneling protocol and a solid server list, spanning over 85+ countries. It also unlocks Netflix and protects torrenting.
But are there any serious issues to be aware of? I’ll try to find how good this VPN really is by answering this and some other key questions:
Is Hotspot Shield safe to use?
How fast is it?
What are its main security and privacy features?
How limited is the free Hotspot Shield version?
Continue reading to get the answers you seek. Below you’ll also find a quick overview that sheds some light on this VPN’s price, customer support, logging policy, and streaming capabilities.
Hotspot Shield claims to be the world’s fastest VPN service. Well, at least that’s what Ookla’s Speedtest.net told about them after their independent study.
However, I must mention that it dates back to 2019, and many things have changed in the VPN industry since then. The most noticeable thing was a quick adoption of the next-gen WireGuard protocol, which usually increases connection speed. However, that wasn’t the case with Hotspot Shield.
To see if the Speedtest.net study still holds, we started to regularly test this VPN’s performance with our in-house speed test tool.
Based on our results, I can say that Hotspot Shield is the fastest VPN that is yet to fully implement the WireGuard tunneling protocol. The question is whether you’d like to pay for such a service right now.
To be fair, our speed test uses OpenVPN, but this provider is known for its high-performing in-house Hydra protocol. It’s supposed to double the download speeds for large files (compared to OpenVPN), and that’s probably why they’re not in a hurry to implement WireGuard.
All in all, the results show that this VPN truly provides some of the fastest speeds on the market. With it, you’ll be able to stream 4K videos, play online and place VOIP calls without lag, torrent large files in minutes, or simply browse without annoying loading times.
However, you shouldn’t forget that a lot of that depends on your internet connection quality as well. When choosing a distant server on another continent, expect increased latency and slower speed.
Hotspot Shield has 1800+ VPN servers in 85+ countries. That’s a solid list, which is also well-spread across the globe, including four countries in Africa. The free version users get to connect to the US only, though.
The Middle East and Africa
This VPN doesn’t own all of its servers, but the same can be said about the most. This doesn’t have much impact on performance, anyway – there’s simply less chance that someone might tamper with the servers on your premises.
However, not all of them are physical, so the performance might worsen with the virtual servers.
One strange thing about this service is that your server options vary depending on your platform. This means that you may not be able to use a server that worked for you on PC after switching to iPhone.
Is Hotspot Shield safe?
The first place to look is in the VPN’s list of specifications. In short, this service may not be Edward Snowden’s first choice for a VPN, but it certainly provides solid basics. Let’s look at those in more detail.
Hotspot Shield uses 256-bit AES military-grade encryption with 2048-bit RSA certificates. Today, this is considered the gold standard for a combination of security and speed.
One great thing about this virtual private network is that it uses a perfect forward secrecy feature. With it, your data is kept safe even if the key of your current encryption gets compromised.
Hotspot Shield VPN service also uses its own patented VPN protocol, called Hydra. This protocol is a proprietary modification or enhancement of TLS and OpenSSL.
Hydra is secure and seems to have some performance benefits over other protocols, such as OpenVPN and IKEv2. That means that you get the best speeds with the Hydra’s secure tunnel without sacrificing your security.
Unfortunately, this service is late in introducing WireGuard, one of the advanced features, providing the fastest and safest VPN tunnels in the industry.
One of the good things about this VPN is its powerfulkill switch. This security feature is a true identity guard. It turns your Internet connection off once your VPN connection fails. This prevents your IP address from leaking.
Unlike some providers out there, Hotspot Shield default settings have the kill switch off. Hence, you’ll need to enable it yourself.
To toggle advanced settings, simply go to Settings -> Advanced and press on Kill Switch:
One thing to know is that the Mac client doesn’t have a kill switch. However, Mac users can choose the Mac OpenVPN app Tunnelblick, which has a kill switch and can be manually configured.
Does it have IP or DNS leaks?
Hotspot Shield doesn’t just encrypt data, it also prevents DNS and IP address leaks of various types, including WebRTC.
The best way to check for leaks is to run a few online DNS leak tests. To do so, I connected to Belgium and was assigned the IP address 220.127.116.11.
Then I checked whether my IP address or DNS queries were leaking:
As you can see, this is my VPN IP address, meaning there are no IP or DNS leaks. Hence, you can stay calm using this provider, knowing that your true IP address is well hidden.
Knowledge of the NSA’s surveillance capabilities may put off those who are hunting the highest privacy standards. Additionally, The United States has tough copyright laws like the DMCA, making torrenters think twice before giving this VPN a try.
It’s also important to mention that at the beginning of July 2020, Pango (the company behind Hotspot Shield) was acquired by a digital security company Aura. The company aims to expand its security offerings and protect its users with data-driven products.
Does Hotspot Shield keep logs?
“We may collect device identifiers, browser types, device types and settings, operating system versions, mobile, wireless, and other network information (such as internet service provider name, carrier name and signal strength), and application version numbers”
The provider clearly states that any IP data is erased immediately after VPN sessions, and it keeps zero logs of online activity. The provider admits it must collect some personal information when computers or mobile phones connect to the VPN, but this is limited to information such as the type of device and OS being used or the unique Mobile-ID.
Free version logging
The free version is logging extensively, though. The provider admits that personal data is shared routinely with advertisers, as is expected in such cases. Here’s what might be shared:
Your phone’s IMEI
Unique advertising ID
This can be enough to actually identify you, and getting a free VPN that makes it possible is a risky choice.
In 2017 Hotspot Shield faced some serious data privacy issues. The Center for Democracy & Technology filed a report accusing the company of “logging connections and using third-party tracking to serve targeted advertising.”
The company denied the allegations claiming they are unfounded.
Still, it seems that this VPN provider does log connection data (so-called aggregate data), including which websites you visit and the apps you use for online communications. Doing so would be a big no to identity theft protection.
Recently, security researcher Paulos Yibelo claimed to have found a significant security bug that could leak generic information like the user’s country. He was able to find out the physical locations of users based on the data he retrieved.
He also said that he could occasionally retrieve true IP addresses, which AnchorFree claimed was impossible since their programmers also investigated the security bug and patched it.
If you choose the Hotspot Shield Premium plan, you’ll also get three extra tools from partners and other companies that Aura owns. Let’s take a quick look at each of them:
Roboform’s 1Password. Getting this excellent password manager for free is a great deal. It works on major platforms plus Chrome and informs in case one of your accounts got compromised. Additionally, you get 24/7 customer support and 1 GB of document storage.
Spam call-blocker. This one is the most niche of all three but can be a lifesaver if you receive plenty of calls every day. The call-blocker does everything automatically but allows you to look up the numbers before answering. Finally, you can directly report the call to the FTC.
Antivirus. A new product from Aura, this addition is yet to prove itself in the tough antivirus market. Available on Windows and Mac, it provides real-time protection against malware and viruses. You will also be automatically alerted about potential threats.
Hotspot Shield video review
Hotspot Shield review: Should you get it? | VPNpro
Pricing and plans
You can choose two plans – Hotspot Shield Premium and Hotspot Shield Premium Family. Both are available as a monthly or annual plan.
Monthly Premium – $12.99/month
Monthly Family – $19.99/month
Annual Premium – $7.99/month
Annual Family – $11.99/month
VPN providers like to change their prices often. Most of the time, they go up. Secure the best Hotspot Shield deal in 2021.
The Premium plan, also known as Hotspot Shield Elite, allows 5 connections per subscription. However, with Premium Family, you get 5 separate accounts, each with 5 devices available.
The supported payment methods include credit cards and PayPal.
There is a 7-day “free trial,” but you have to provide your credit card details, and AnchorFree automatically puts you into the most expensive monthly plan unless you cancel in time. Other than that, there’s no such thing as a free premium Hotspot Shield account. Unfortunately, many people have fallen into the hands of scammers, thinking otherwise.
This VPN offers one of the most extended refund periods, which is a 45-day money-back guarantee. That’s more than the industry standard of one month.
At the end of the day, these prices may be a bit high for what Hotspot Shield has to offer compared to others, especially its monthly subscriptions. That being said, you can check for discounts and special offers on our Hotspot Shield coupons page.
Naturally, Hotspot Shield free VPN comes with some serious limitations when compared to a premium subscription:
Daily bandwidth limit of 500 MB
A limited number of US servers, which may well be virtual ones
No access to Netflix
Furthermore, this version collects logs and shares them with third parties.
Does Hotspot Shield support my device?
Apps and support for different devices were always one of the weak sides of this service. However, the situation has recently improved, and now it has apps for the following platforms:
Amazon Fire TV & Fire Stick
It also supports a bunch of routers (Asus-WRT, Merlin, GL.iNet, DD-WRT, FreshTomato). Finally, you can download a Chrome browser extension as well.
As I won’t be discussing the Linux client in detail, I’ll just say that it lacks a kill switch and auto-connect. You can install the client on Debian-based distros and Red Hat.
Hotspot Shield for Windows
The client looks good on Windows 10, especially after the later redesign. The home screen is intuitive and easy to navigate. Therefore, even novice VPN users should feel at home quickly because all you have to do is choose your virtual location and press the big button.
At the same time, it could look less impressive for an advanced user who would prefer more freedom to tinker with the settings.
When the time comes to tweak some settings, click the hamburger to see the names of each icon on the left sidebar. Here you can run a speed test, check your Account, see what’s in your software Suite, and do other things.
Under Settings, you’ll find five tabs to choose from. Here you can toggle startup, auto-connect, split tunneling (SmartVPN), and tunneling protocols.
Under Advanced Settings, you can see the IP leak prevention option that is on by default. You can also turn the Kill Switch on or off and decide whether to run Hotspot Shield on public wi-fi.
Hotspot Shield for Mac
The interface of Windows and Mac desktop clients is similar. You’ll find the main differences between the two desktop clients in the Settings menu. That’s because the Mac app is one of those that allows less customization than the Windows version.
The only options are three connection settings and protocol selection. That means no split tunneling and also no antivirus.
However, what I missed most was a kill switch. At least there’s an option to use Tunnelblick, the OpenVPN app, which you can configure manually and turn on this missing feature.
Hotspot Shield for Android and iOS
The Android version has a similar interface to the desktop apps. It’s very clean and easy to follow, and the client setup is as smooth as polished wood. What’s more, you get the password manager, the spam-call blocker, and identity scan.
Unfortunately, split tunneling is unavailable. While you’ll find Smart VPN, it acts differently by connecting to a VPN server whenever you launch a specific app. It acts as a trigger and still protects your whole connection.
To tell the truth, the Android app isn’t the best regarding security tweaking. You can choose connection preferences, add trusted wi-fi networks and toggle the internet kill switch. Besides, there’s an option to show or disable personalized ads.
Hotspot Shield for iOS
Once again, this mobile client looks exactly like its desktop brothers. Feature-wise, you get the password manager, the spam-call blocker, and identity scanner. However, that’s only if you buy the Premium plan.
Just like many desktop features, the Smart VPN is missing. But being fair, you probably don’t need its Android version. Also, we shouldn’t forget that the majority of providers tend to under-invest in iOS clients.
But even then, there are quite a few which manage to deliver highly touted products. Check out our best VPNs for iPhone list to learn more.
Hotspot Shield Chrome extension
Using the Chrome extension is great for:
Online security: encryption of all your data while browsing
Privacy: your IP address is faked
Safe and secure public wifi connection
Adding the VPN’s extension is no different than any other browser extension. You can download it from the Chrome Store or provider’s website.
It’s also important to mention that apart from the paid subscription, you have two other choices. First, you may want to test the 7-day free trial version. Second, you can use this VPN for free. Of course, there will be limitations, such as only a few foreign servers to use (see below).
It’s clear from the Configuration menu that only the Germany, Netherlands, Canada, and Russia servers are available with the free account, and you’re able to connect to 9 countries with the paid plan.
Of course, if you choose the free version, you’ll frequently see popups and browser redirections to buy the full version.
With the extension, you’ll be able to use the following features:
Sword: feed web trackers fake web activity to keep your real web activity private
Tracker blocker: enable or disable analytic trackers
Ad blocker: enable or disable ad blocking
Malware blocker: enable or disable ad malware blocker
Cookie blocker: enable or disable web cookies
Bypass local network: to bypass local resources, such as internal network, localhost, etc.
WebRTC blocker: to prevent IP leaks
Streaming with Hotspot Shield
When it comes to streaming, it matters whether you have a paid plan. If you don’t, the stakes of accessing streaming platforms are low. If you do, you can enjoy streaming to your liking.
Does Hotspot Shield work with Netflix?
Here’s the good news: you can use the paid version for Netflix. However, only select streaming servers are available, so you may suffer from an increased distance based on your location.
I managed to stream Netflix US, UK, and Australian libraries from the worldwide content without any issues. But, I couldn’t bypass the detection measures with servers in Canada and Japan. If you fail to access Netflix, you can find information on the Hotspot Shield website to help you out.
And now the bad news: you can’t unblock Netflix without the paid version. Here’s what you’ll see if you try to access the platform:
I was a bit surprised to see Hotspot Shield unblock Amazon Prime Video for me. With Hydra protocol, the speeds were more than enough for 4K (UHD), and the loading times were short. Of course, a lot depends on your internet connection and the distance to the US server.
Even though BBC iPlayer is infamous for its strict geo-blocking, the Hotspot Shield manager gave me the access. If it didn’t work from the first try, consider switching to another UK server. However, I wouldn’t be shocked if BBC managed to blacklist all of them in the future.
Although 30% of VPN users target Netflix shows, there are other popular media centers with streaming content too. One of them is Hulu, and Hotspot Shield has no trouble unblocking it. I was more than happy with the available quality and loading times.
While not the most popular streaming platform, YouTube TV is available from anywhere with the Hotspot Shield purchased version. It offers more than 80 different channels and is especially great for NBA, NFL, and MLB fans.
Is Hotspot Shield safe for torrenting?
This VPN provides anonymous torrenting. What’s more, the Hydra protocol is excellent for those with slower or more unstable connections. There are plenty of servers and countries to choose from, but I missed port-forwarding and SOCKS5 proxy.
Luckily, they have recently implemented a split tunneling feature named SmartVPN. Available on Windows, it allows to exclude but not include apps that will use VPN connection. Also, you can only pause and not turn off the connection, so hopefully, the provider will take time to improve this feature.
When writing this review, I had to use live chat support to figure out several issues. I found the support not only friendly and helpful but also quite fast. Of course, a few of the replies were templates, but, on the whole, I was satisfied with the answers.
One thing to mention – to access 24/7 live chat support, you’ll need to get a Hotspot Shield account. I found that to be quite frustrating as, more often than not, you want to get the answers before committing to a particular product.
You can also try to use the Support menu to open the FAQ section or send a direct question to the support team.
How to use Hotspot Shield VPN?
Learning how to use this VPN is easy. If you have any practice with VPNs, you shouldn’t have any issues switching to this one.
Hotspot Shield VPN has over 1800+ servers in more than 85+ countries. However, you can only choose by country – there’s no way to select the server or server location
After you log into your account, you will see a big Power button.
Click the Power button and get connected to the last-used or default optimal server.
Surprisingly, you can use this service to access Netflix US and Netflix UK. This is great news for TV show fans. We experienced pretty good speeds with the paid version. It’s possible to stream HD and even 4K (depending on your connection and device).
This VPN is also not bad for online gaming, general geo-unblocking, public wifi protection, and more. You can also try the Premium version for 7 days without paying.
Alternatives to Hotspot Shield
If, after reading this far, you’re starting to have doubts whether this provider for you, consider checking out how it fares against some of the competitors. Below are three links to comparison articles that should give you a better idea of where this provider stands.
Hotspot Shield vs NordVPN. It’s only natural that Hotspot Shield loses against our #1 service. However, you might be surprised to find both standing toe-to-toe in certain categories.
CyberGhost vs Hotspot Shield. Now, these fall into the same weight class. Unless you’re really into torrenting and lowest possible price, you may find both services evenly matched.
Hotspot Shield vs TunnelBear. The latter is known as the most fun VPN and is the best choice for bear fans. However, if you’re not one of them, you may still like TunnelBear’s free version better.
Hotspot Shield development: from 2019 up to now
This section looks at the most important events in Hotspot Shield’s recent history, starting from 2019. This will allow you to see how determined the provider is to improve the clients and catch up with the industry’s trends. So while you won’t find anything about the WireGuard here, it’s still worth a look.
March 2019. Hotspot Shield adds 34 new locations. Even though they were virtual, it still was a noticeable expansion of its server fleet, which now offers 85+ countries.
October 2019. It joins Pango, which already offered Identity Guard, Robo Shield, and 1Password. From now on, you could get all four in one package.
November 2019. Added support for Android TVs, Fire TVs, and Android Box.
March 2020. Support for routers from Asus, Linksys, Netgear, and more. DD-WRT and FreshTomato firmware are compatible as well.
July 2020. Aura, a digital security company, buys Pango. Their products (FigLeaf, Intrusta, PrivacyMate) are yet to be offered to Hotspot’s clients.
Hotspot Shield review: should you get it?
One of the main advantages of Hotspot Shield is the free version, even if it’s limited. But should you get the premium option?
If you call yourself an average internet user, I’d say that you should upgrade to the paid version. It offers fast connections, thanks to its proprietary Hydra protocol, and has a solid server fleet. Furthermore, it unblocks not only Netflix but other streaming services as well.
Torrenting fans should also like it, even though it’s not among the best P2P VPNs. Finally, there’s a 24/7 live chat ready to solve your issues.
What this service still lacks is the WireGuard tunneling protocol and some better pricing. I personally believe they’re asking a bit too much.
With that said, I wouldn’t recommend this VPN for political activists, hackers, and other users for whom privacy is an essential factor. While the premium version is not collecting logs, the ownership (US) and privacy scandals in the past shouldn’t be overlooked.
What about you? Would you recommend this VPN? Let us know in the comments below!
Hotspot Shield FAQ
Does Hotspot Shield work in China?
The reviews online show that Hotspot Shield VPN is a great product to use in China. With the VPN connection enabled, you’ll be sure to stay secure and private while browsing in China.
Is Hotspot Shield malware?
No, it’s not. Hotspot Shield is meant to protect and not harm you while browsing. With this product, you increase your security and privacy online.
How do I remove Hotspot Shield from Windows?
To remove Hotspot Shield from your device, follow these steps:
Go to Start
Select Control Panel
Go to Programs
Select the Uninstall /Change option
Is Hotspot Shield good for Netflix?
Hotspot Shield is good for Netflix. It unblocks multiple libraries (UK, US, Australia) and gives you access to other streaming platforms as well.
Is Hotspot Shield a good VPN?
Hotspot Shield is a good VPN that you should definitely try. It’s secure, fast, and easy to use. Furthermore, it unblocks Netflix, allows torrenting, and has 24/7 live chat.
My Hotspot Shield is not working. What can I do?
The most common is the “Something went wrong” error. You can learn how to troubleshoot this step-by-step from our dedicated “Is Hotspot Shield not working?” article. The guides are for Windows and Mac devices.
Jan is the captain at the helm of VPNpro. He ensures that every crew member is practicing perfect digital hygiene and spreading only accurate pro tips about technology. Besides that, he is a frequent contributor on many renowned publications, such as Forbes, ComputerWeekly, PC Mag, TechRadar, and ZDNet.