Hotspot Shield Review 2021

7.6/10
Fast but not very private
Last updated: April 12, 2021

Being one of the fastest VPNs on the market, supporting all major platforms, and working great for Netflix makes Hotspot Shield a great choice to enhance your privacy online.

Minimum Price:
$6.99 / month
Apps available:
windows macos linux android ios chrome
Works with:
router androidtv firetv kodi

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In my Hotspot Shield review, I’ll look at the main features of this popular VPN service, which has already gathered millions of users worldwide across different platforms. While the free Hotspot Shield version certainly has impacted these numbers, there’s no denying that this provider offers a secure and fast connection.

Hotspot Shield VPN also claims to be the fastest service, all thanks to its in-house Hydra tunneling protocol and a solid server list that spans over 90+ countries.

But is it truly the case? 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 my Hotspot Shield review 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.

Overview

Rank #21 out of 215 providers
Company location United States
Website hotspotshield.com
Number of countries covered 90
Number of servers 3200
Unblocks Netflix Yes, with Premium
Safe for Torrenting Yes
Encryption AES-256
Protocols Catapult Hydra
Customer Support 24/7 live chat
Logging policy Minimal data collection
Price From $6.99/month
Free version or trial Yes
Smart DNS No

Hotspot Shield video review

Hotspot Shield review: Should you get it? | VPNpro
2020-02-28

Hotspot Shield speed test and servers

Hotspot Shield claims to be the world’s fastest VPN. 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.

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.

Hotspot Shield 14-Day Speed Average

More live data from our VPN Speed Test tool
USA server
Download Speed 208 Mbps
Upload Speed 437 Mbps
UK server
Download Speed 113 Mbps
Upload Speed 318 Mbps
Germany server
Download Speed 194 Mbps
Upload Speed 455 Mbps

Based on our results, I can say that Hotspot Shield is the fastest VPN that doesn’t have the WireGuard tunneling protocol.

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 is among the fastest ones 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.

Server list

Hotspot Shield VPN has 3200+ servers in 90+ 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.

LocationCountries
The Americas15+
Europe45+
Asia Pacific25+
The Middle East and Africa5+

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 servers are physical, so the performance might worsen with the virtual ones.

One strange thing about Hotspot Shield 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.

Pricing and plans

As I write this Hotspot Shield review, it offers three premium plans:

  • Monthly Plus – $9.99/month
  • Monthly Premium – $12.99/month
  • Monthly Family – $19.99/month
  • Yearly Plus – $6.99/month
  • Yearly Premium – $7.99/month
  • Yearly 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.

Premium plans allow you to use 5 simultaneous connections.

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. At the end of the day, the Hotspot Shield price may be a bit high for what it has to offer compared to others, especially its monthly subscriptions.

Free Hotspot Shield version

Naturally, it comes with some serious limitations:

  • Daily bandwidth limit of 500 MB
  • Includes ads
  • A limited number of US servers, which may well be virtual ones
  • One device
  • No access to Netflix

Furthermore, this version collects logs and shares them with third-parties.

Is Hotspot Shield safe?

When answering whether Hotspot Shield is 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.

Encryption

Hotspot Shield uses AES-256 military-grade encryption. Today, this is considered the best choice on the market 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.

Tunneling protocols

Hotspot Shield VPN 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 with the Hydra protocol, you get the best speeds without sacrificing your security.

Unfortunately, this service is late in introducing WireGuard, which is by far the fastest and safest tunneling protocol in the industry.

Kill switch

One of the good things about this VPN is its powerful kill switch. A kill switch turns your Internet connection off once your VPN connection fails. This prevents your IP address from leaking.

Unlike some providers out there, Hotspot Shield doesn’t have the kill switch on by default. Hence, you’ll need to enable it yourself.

To do that, simply go to Settings -> Advanced and press on Kill Switch:

Hotspot Shield advanced settings screenshot

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 IP or DNS leaks is to run a few online tests. To do so, I connected to Belgium and was assigned the IP address 185.198.90.173.

Then I checked whether my IP address or DNS queries were leaking:

Hotspot Shield IP address and DNS leak test

As you can see, this is my Hotspot Shield-given 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?

Hotspot Shield does minimal logging. It becomes clear after taking a look at their Privacy Policy:

“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.

The free version of Hotspot Shield is logging extensively, though. The provider admits that personal data is shared routinely with advertisers, as is expected in such cases.

Privacy problems

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.

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.

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:

  • Windows
  • macOS
  • Linux
  • Android
  • iOS
  • Android TV
  • 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.

Hotspot Shield for Windows, Mac, and Linux

The interface of Windows and Mac clients is similar. However, the macOS app looks more like the mobile versions. You’ll find the main differences between the two desktop apps in the Settings menu.

Hotspot Shield for Mac is one of the clients that allows less customization than the Windows version.

In the Settings menu, you can see the IP leak prevention option that is on by default, but you can decide to turn it off. You can also turn the Kill Switch on or off here if you want to.

Hotspot Shield General Settings Screenshot

In contrast, the Hotspot Shield Mac app has to offer Unsafe WiFi notifications and auto-start.

The Windows app’s interface is excellent for any VPN newbie who wants to access blocked content quickly. But, it could be less impressive for an advanced user who would prefer more freedom to tinker with the settings.

Hotspot Shield for Android and iOS

Hotspot Shield for mobile devices has a similar interface to the desktop app. Again, it’s very clean and easy to follow.

To tell the truth, Hotspot Shield for Android and iOS is not the best regarding security tweaking. However, these apps offer some extra features like:

  • Malware Scanning: scan your phone and apps for malware infections.
  • Battery Life: increase your battery life by auto-closing unused apps.
  • Junk files: remove unwanted junk files for smoother running.

Hotspot Shield VPN mobile app screenshot

Basically, apart from a few general behaviors (e.g., Start on boot) and securing WiFi connections, there’s not much to tweak in the Hotspot Shield mobile apps.

Hotspot Shield Chrome extension

You can use Hotspot Shield with Chrome.

Using the Chrome extension is great for:

  • Blocking ads
  • Security: encryption of all your data while browsing
  • Privacy: your IP address is faked
  • Safe and secure public wifi connection
  • Bypassing censorship

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).

Hotspot Shield Plugin for Chrome - server list

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 of Hotspot Shield for Netflix.

I managed to stream Netflix US, UK, and Australian libraries 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 paid Hotspot Shield version. Here’s what you’ll see if you try to access the platform:

hotspot shield prompt for premium feature

If you want to find an alternative, you may try one of our best VPNs for Netflix in 2021.

Amazon Prime Video

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.

BBC iPlayer

Even though BBC iPlayer is infamous for its strict geo-blocking, the Hotspot Shield manager give 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.

Hulu

Although 30% of VPN users target Netflix shows, there are other popular media centers 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.

YouTube TV

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 is absolutely safe for 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 SOCKS5 proxy and port-forwarding.

In contrast, the free Hotspot Shield isn’t the best choice for torrenting and other P2P file-sharing activities due to the daily 500 MB bandwidth limit. If that wasn’t enough, this version collects your personal data.

Customer support: 24/7 live chat, tickets, FAQ

Hotspot Shield support options include:

  • FAQ
  • Knowledgebase
  • Support ticket
  • 24/7 live chat support

When writing this Hotspot Shield review, I had to use the 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 the 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 3200+ servers in more than 90+ 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.

Hotspot Shield VPN Server list screenshot

Surprisingly, you can use Hotspot Shield 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 Hotspot Shield is the VPN 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 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 stand 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 bear fans. However, if you’re not one of them, you may still like TunnelBear’s free version better.

Should you get Hotspot Shield VPN?

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 Hotspot Shield, 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:

  1. Go to Start
  2. Select Control Panel
  3. Go to Programs
  4. Select the Uninstall /Change option
  5. Click Yes
  6. Click OK
  7. You’re done!

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.

Good

  • Free version
  • Fast speeds
  • Great for Netflix
  • Supports all major platforms
  • Super-fast connection times
  • 24/7 live chat

Bad

  • Questionable privacy, invasive data practices
  • WireGuard protocol not supported
  • Costs a bit too much
 7.6 / 10
Total score
$6.99 / month
Minimum Price
8 comments
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  1. Kevin

    I’ve been using Hotspot Shield for about 2 years now. I first got it through a humblebundle with a free 1 year sub to it. I liked it, a lot…it worked well, secured everything I could want and I ended up after the year buying a lifetime subscription to it along with their premium IP and server access. It has been amazing. I don’t do a lot of torrenting any more so I can’t speak on exactly how secure it is for doing stuff like that but if you’re concerned with your browsing and being tracked that way…I can assure you that Hotspot Shield is top notch and what little I’ve done with torrenting it appears to keep all of that secure as well (though you might want to test that in greater detail for yourself).

    Playing games have been no problem, but again I do have premium so I have the fastest they offer. Streaming has been great and I’ve noticed NO DNS leaks at all. Give it a shot (I’m actually using it right now to view this site! LOL)


  2. Elka

    I’ve been using Hotspot Shield Elite for approximately two months and I haven’t had any issues with it. It’s intuitive and easy to use with a straightforward interface. It’s been completely reliable, unlike other VPN services I’ve used in the past. I don’t need to worry about it not connecting, or running into issues with the proxy. It’s lightning-fast, has encryption features that protect my privacy, and it allows me to access content that is geo-blocked in my region. I use it mainly for streaming but it’s a great tool to have when I need to browse anonymously or I’m worried about data security.

    As for the different program tiers…. In my opinion, It’s definitely worth getting the premium subscription if only because there’s no bandwidth cap. If you’re using the free service you may run into issues while streaming videos or downloading large files. I also like that the premium service allows me to use more virtual locations than the basic plan offers. It’s super useful if you’re trying to access specific regional content.

    The premium plan means you can also use the service across multiple devices without having to pay more. It’s a great deal from a practical standpoint.


  3. StapleItRight

    I only had positive experience with Hotspot Shield. It’s easy and super free. The best thing is that it unblocks Netflix amazingly. Highly recommended!


  4. newbirth

    I guess it depends on what you need it for, doesn’t it? Hotspot is great for Netflix or browsing safely. If you want to torrent daily or want more locations, this is not a good VPN. For me, I need a bit more than this.


  5. E. Manna

    I think that I’m a typical internet user. i spend time surfing, streaming and playing a few online games. One thing that’s important to me is speed. It doesn’t sound like Hotspot Shield does too bad in this area so I might give them a try. Thanks for the in depth review.


  6. Richard T

    Worked in less than 8 seconds. Instantly allowed access where previously was denied based on country. Would highlighly recommend. You can’t do USA for free but you can do Canada where coincidentally a lot of US shows are shown


  7. LetiEstevez

    I’ve been using Hotspot shield for about two months now and I’m really happy with the results. Of course I don’t really need or care much for security, I only use it for downloading.


    1. Ethan Payne

      Well, using a privacy-unfriendly VPN for “downloading” can actually have serious legal consequences if you’re live in a country where copyright laws are duly enforced. I’d suggest you take a look at our Best VPNs for “downloading” article – it might change your mind.

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Hotspot Shield review
Hotspot Shield
7.6 / 10
Apps available:
windows macos linux android ios chrome
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