This Hotspot Shield VPN review looks at this popular VPN service’s main pros and cons and evaluates where it stands among the competition. The provider has a robust toolkit, broad device compatibility, and a solid free version.
Hotspot Shield is fast due to its in-house Hydra tunneling protocol and a sizable server list spanning over 115+ locations. It’s also a great choice for unblocking popular streaming platforms, and the service keeps your torrenting efforts safe and anonymous.
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 good 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.
And if you already want to test everything yourself, get Hotspot Shield today with a 45-day money-back guarantee!
|Rank|| #30 out of 231 providers|
|Netflix|| Yes, with Premium|
|Support|| 24/7 live chat|
|Logs|| Minimal data collection|
|Price|| From $7.99/month|
|Free version or trial|| Yes|
Don’t think that Hotspot Shield’s package is worth the price? No need to worry because our top recommended alternative costs half as much yet delivers excellent results!
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 Premium Family – $19.99/month
- Annual Premium – $7.99/month
- Annual Premium 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 2023.
The Premium plan allows 10 connections per subscription. And with Premium Family, you get 5 separate accounts, each with 5 devices available. Users can purchase their preferred plan using credit & debit cards or PayPal, but there are no anonymous payment options.
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, letting you test the service for quite a while.
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.
You can also try the service at no cost with the free 7-day trial. Once they provide their credit card details, users are free to explore everything Hotspot Shield has to offer for a week. There’s an option to cancel it anytime, so you don’t have to commit if you don’t want to.
Hotspot Shield free version
Naturally, Hotspot Shield free VPN comes with understandable limitations compared to the premium subscriptions:
- 1 device
- 3 locations – 2 in the US (LA & NY), Singapore, the UK
- Limited speed
- No streaming or gaming modes
- No 24/7 customer support
What’s notable about it are the ads, which can be intrusive when you’re quickly trying to connect to a server. At least there are no data limits, which is rare for free VPNs, and you can even use the Chrome extension to secure your browsing efforts without paying a dime.
Hotspot Shield gets bonus points for not requiring to create an account to use the free version. And apart from the limited server scope, you can utilize the same security features as Premium users. One notable difference is that malware protection here only prevents you from visiting malware-ridden websites.
Speed & performance
A VPN service’s performance heavily relies on the chosen tunneling protocol. Some options may be slower but provide better security, or vice versa, while others offer a balanced combination of both. Hotspot Shield certainly doesn’t lag behind, offering some of the fastest speeds on the market.
The provider includes WireGuard on Android apps, but its in-house Hydra protocol is the true star of the show as it facilitates fast and stable connections. It’s an improved version of the open-source OpenVPN protocol, which explains the high level of performance.
All in all, various testing results proved that Hotspot Shield has impressive speeds. 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.
Best Hotspot Shield alternatives
Hotspot Shield server locations
Hotspot Shield has 1800+ VPN servers in 99+ countries and 35+ cities around the globe. That’s a solid list, with connection point options across all continents. The free version users get to connect to the US, the UK, and Singapore only, though.
|The Middle East and Africa||7+|
This VPN doesn’t own all of its servers, but the same can be said about most providers. It doesn’t have much impact on performance, anyway – there’s simply less chance that someone might tamper with the servers on their 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. It means that you may not be able to use a server that worked for you on PC after switching to iPhone.
Hotspot Shield now offers quick access to hardware in the US best suited for specific online activities. These are:
- 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
Hotspot Shield security & privacy
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 includes:
- AES-128 encryption
- Secure tunneling protocols
- A kill switch
- IP & DNS Leak protection
- Minimal logging
Is Hotspot Shield safe?
I can say that, yes, Hotspot Shield is a great option for those looking for a safe VPN, but mainly from the technical side. You get robust security features, a kill switch included, the service doesn’t leak neither your IP address nor DNS requests, and your internet is protected by industry-standard encryption.
Hotspot Shield uses 128-bit AES military-grade encryption with 2048-bit RSA certificates. It offers a great level of protection and speed, and it would take millions of years for outsiders to crack it. That being said, most VPNs today utilize the more secure 256-bit version.
The 2048-bit RSA certificate goes together with the Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman algorithm (ECDHE) for Ephemeral Key Exchange. It means that encryption keys get generated for each new session and then deleted once you kill the connection.
As for authentication, Hotspot Shield employs the SHA-256 hash function. It’s virtually uncrackable, with data getting encrypted with eight 32-bit words. Many other VPNs use it as the standard option.
Hotspot Shield supports the following tunneling protocols:
- Catapult Hydra
- WireGuard (Android-only)
The VPN also has the Smart option in its settings, and the provider recommends selecting this option. It picks the best tunneling protocol option for you, ensuring you remain secure no matter what you’re doing online.
Hydra is a proprietary modification of the OpenVPN protocol and TLS (Transport Layer Security). It’s secure and seems to have some performance benefits over other protocols. So, expect great speeds and robust protection to boot.
WireGuard is a fairly new protocol, offering both great security and speed. It’s open-source, light, and reliable, making it the top choice for many providers looking to facilitate optimal performance.
IKEv2/IPSec is much older, yet it still holds up great and is the preferred choice for those wanting ensured connection stability. This protocol works best on mobiles, as it allows for a seamless transition from Wi-Fi to mobile data.
One of the good things about this VPN is its powerful kill switch. This security feature is a true identity guard. It turns your internet connection off once your VPN connection fails, preventing your IP address from leaking.
Unlike some providers out there, Hotspot Shield’s default settings have the kill switch off on the Android, Windows, and iOS apps. Hence, you’ll need to enable it yourself. To toggle the kill switch on, simply go to Settings > Advanced and press on Kill Switch.
An exception here is the Mac version, with no option for a kill switch in the settings at all. One can assume that it’s integrated into the app, with no option to turn it off.
IP & DNS leak protection
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 126.96.36.199.
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.
Where is it based?
Hotspot Shield is based in the US. The country well-known for its privacy-unfriendly climate, as well as being a founding member of the Five Eyes global surveillance alliance.
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?
Then there’s usage data, which includes device info, session time, settings, timestamps, location, etc.
And finally, regarding what’s collected while you’re using Hotspot Shield.
The provider clearly states that any IP data is erased immediately after VPN sessions, and it keeps zero logs of online activity. Hotspot Shield 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 of Hotspot Shield notably has advertisements, and some of them are even personalized. In the VPN’s Privacy Notice, the company states that neither it nor any third party advertising service has access to VPN browsing information. Advertisers only have access to data required to deliver the ads.
“In order to display ads in our apps, we may utilize third party software development kits (SDKs), which consists of software code provided by a third party and embedded into our apps. These SDKs may collect the following information from your device or use;
Device or mobile advertising identifiers (controlled by your mobile operating system)
Internet Protocol (IP) Address, which may reveal your approximate geographic location as determined by your carrier or ISP. However, when using the VPN service, this may replace your actual location with an alternative geographic location.
Device-specific information such as make, model, OS version, language, time zone and other information.
The name of the app or website serving the ad.”
Regarding personalized advertisements, users can opt out of them with the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) AppChoices app. You will still see non-personalized ads, though, unless you choose to use an ad blocker.
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.
And in 2018, 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.
Other technical features
Here’s the list of other features you get with Hotspot Shield:
- Split tunneling
- Malware protection
Subscribers (and free users) don’t get many perks, especially compared to other premium providers like NordVPN or Surfshark. If you only need the essentials, the service is quite good, but those looking for versatility will find Hotspot Shield lacking.
Split tunneling lets you customize the VPN connection by selecting which apps work only when you’re connected to a server. Useful when you want to secure only part of your internet traffic, like when you’re streaming or torrenting.
Hotspot Shield also protects you from malicious software with a built-in antivirus. It prevents users from entering malware sites, illegal or phishing pages, infected websites, spam sites, and content farms. While it doesn’t replace antivirus solutions, it works great alongside them.
Is Hotspot Shield good for streaming?
When it comes to streaming, it matters whether you have a paid plan. If you don’t, the stakes of accessing content platforms are low. If you do, you can enjoy a seamless viewing experience.
|Streaming service||Does it work?|
|Amazon Prime Video||Yes|
Hotspot Shield does not disappoint when it comes to bypassing streaming platform geo-blocks. Moreover, the videos were HD in quality, loaded almost instantly, and didn’t stutter. The fresh Streaming servers are a nice touch, ensuring streams are as smooth as butter.
Unblock Netflix with Hotspot Shield
I managed to stream Netflix US, UK, and Australian libraries from 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.
Shows and movies didn’t take too long to load, and the VPN connection ran without interruptions. And if you want to find alternative provider options for this platform, you may try one of our best VPNs for Netflix.
Unblock BBC iPlayer with Hotspot Shield
Even though BBC iPlayer is infamous for its strict geo-blocking, Hotspot Shield gave me access to it. If it doesn’t work on the first try, consider switching to another UK server. It will be smooth sailing from then on.
Keep in mind that you still have to create an account to stream on BBC iPlayer. Other than that, I had a pleasant viewing experience.
Unblock Amazon Prime Video with Hotspot Shield
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.
Unblock Hulu with Hotspot Shield
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.
Unblock YouTube TV with Hotspot Shield
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?
Hotspot Shield 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. If those are something you need, consider checking out the best torrenting VPNs.
Luckily, the provider at least has the split tunneling feature. Available on all platforms, it allows excluding apps that will work only when you’re connected to the VPN.
P2P file-sharing is also enabled on the free Hotspot Shield version. It doesn’t limit data, but the speeds are understandably slower, so downloads might take a while to finish.
Hotspot Shield video review
Prefer video content over written one? You’re in luck! We have a YouTube channel where you can find visual substitutes for most of our guides. You can start with the Hotspot Shield review below.
Hotspot Shield Review 2022 | All you need to know about Hotspot Shield
Hotspot Shield device support
Hotspot Shield has applications for a wide range of operating systems. You can use it without any hassle on:
- Android TV
Currently, the provider doesn’t support gaming consoles (Nintendo, Xbox, Playstation), Kindle tablets, Kodi, Smart TVs that are not Android TV, and Windows phones. And while Hotspot Shield is working on this, you can still technically secure these devices by connecting to a router configured with the VPN.
Thankfully, the service supports a bunch of routers (Asus-WRT, Merlin, GL.iNet, DD-WRT, FreshTomato). Finally, you can also download a Chrome browser extension and install it on Brave, Opera, Firefox, and Edge browsers.
Desktop apps: Windows
The client looks good on Windows, especially after the latest 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.
Once the connection is established, you’ll see a little map with the server flashing on it, server information (IP, load, connection duration), daily data usage, peak speeds, and the network.
When the time comes to tweak some settings, click the three lines to see the names of each icon on the left sidebar. Here you can run a speed test, check your Account, see general information about Hotspot Shield, access the support section, and go to Settings.
Under Settings, you’ll find five tabs to choose from. Here, you can:
- Toggle how the app works in General
- Turn on split tunneling (Smart VPN) for select websites and applications
- Cycle through the available tunneling protocols (Hydra and IKEv2)
- Tweak the Advanced settings (kill switch, Auto protect for public Wi-Fi, and IP leak protection)
- Create Shortcuts
Desktop apps: Mac
The interface of Windows and Mac desktop clients is similar. You’ll find the main differences between the two apps in the Settings menu. That’s because the macOS version allows less customization than the Windows counterpart.
Your options are limited to only switching between the available tunneling protocols and turning on split tunneling. The latter differs from the Windows version, though, letting you select which websites bypass the VPN connection and which need it to work. Notably, there is no option to use it with applications. There’s also no option to toggle the kill switch.
If we overlook the minimal Settings and the missing speed test tab, Hotspot Shield for Mac provides virtually the same protection as the Windows app. Still, I’d like more customization options for macOS devices.
Desktop apps: Linux
Currently, Hotspot Shield works with Ubuntu, CentOS, Debian, and Fedora OS Linux distributions. The app offers a simple command-line interface, and it’s only available for the Premium tier.
The Hotspot Shield Linux application includes:
- Access to the full server list
- The Catapult Hydra tunneling protocol
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Military-grade encryption
It’s fairly lackluster and lacks features like split tunneling, auto-connect, and such. But if all you need is to protect your internet connection, it does the job just fine.
Mobile apps: Android
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.
Users can toggle the app’s appearance, see their account information, and tweak the settings. The former includes:
- VPN protocols. What’s interesting is that apart from the proprietary tunneling protocol, the Android app has WireGuard instead of IKEv2.
- The Connection Center. Here you can pick when Hotspot Shield connects – on startup, app launch, or disconnects on sleep. Another notable section concerns networks. The VPN will also connect when you join unsecured or secured Wi-Fi, alongside cellular networks, depending on what you turn on.
- Trusted WiFi networks. Hotspot Shield will disconnect the VPN connection whenever you switch to your added secure networks.
- Split tunneling. Allows select websites and apps to work only with the VPN on or bypass it altogether.
- Always-on VPN. If the VPN connection ever fails, the app automatically reestablishes it.
Internet Kill Switch. Kills your internet connection if the VPN ever stops working, preventing leaks.
Mobile apps: iOS
Once again, the Hotspot Shield iOS client looks exactly like its desktop brothers. Thus, if you’re familiar with those versions, navigating this one will be extra easy.
As with Android, you get the same three tabs – one for connecting to the VPN server, another detailing Premium tier perks, and a tab with settings and account info. Still, it’s more limited, as there’s no option to toggle the general settings. You don’t get WireGuard either, with IKEv2 taking its place.
While split tunneling, Always-on VPN, and the kill switch are identical to Android, some options are exclusive to the iOS app. One is the option to re-install a VPN profile. The other is the Privacy settings, which lets you opt out of personal data collection.
Browser extensions: Chrome
Hotspot Shield offers a VPN add-on only for the Chrome browser. You can download it from the Chrome Store or the provider’s website, and it’s available for both Premium and Free users.
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 adblocking.
- Malware blocker. Enable or disable ad malware blocker.
- Cookie blocker. Enable or disable web cookies.
- Bypass local network. Bypass local resources, such as internal network, localhost, etc.
- WebRTC blocker. Prevent IP leaks.
Picking the Browser settings option lets you select which websites remain secured while the add-on is turned off. You can also pick which pages bypass the extension and work as usual.
Overall, the Chrome add-on offers more customizability than most extensions provided by other VPN services. However, the server scope is quite limited, with only 9 country options.
Support options include:
- Support ticket
- 24/7 live chat support
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.
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 additional features and better pricing. I personally believe they’re asking a bit too much. The US jurisdiction and past scandals might also make privacy-wary folks hesitant to choose this service. Political activists and whistleblowers can pick better options from the market.
Still, Hotspot Shield is a pretty solid VPN. There will always be room for improvement, but at least it seems the provider is working hard to make it better for both Premium and Free users.
What about you? Would you recommend this VPN? Let us know in the comments below!
You may also like to read:
Best VPN services
Most secure VPN providers
Hotspot Shield vs NordVPN
Hotspot Shield vs ExpressVPN
Hotspot Shield vs CyberGhost
NordVPN vs Surfshark vs ExpressVPN
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.
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.
Is Hotspot Shield free?
Yes, Hotspot Shield offers a free version, albeit with restricted capabilities. It comes with unlimited data, limited speed, 1 simultaneous connection, and 3 server locations. The applications also have advertisements.