Menu

Hotspot Shield

February 2017 - Review, Packages & Deals

Our verdict

“Hotspot Shield is a no-frills budget option for basic VPN protection with on-off access to streaming services.”

7.7

RECOMMENDED FOR

  • Streaming
  • Travel
  • Privacy

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Incredibly simple and easy to use
  • Super cheap
  • Access to China-only content

Works with

  • BBC iPlayer
  • Sling TV
  • Kodi
  • Netflix

Top Hotspot Shield packages for February 2017

1 Month

$11.95 per month
  • 5 Simultaneous Connections
  • Ad-free Browsing
  • Additional Malware Protection
View Package

1 Month

$99.95 Single Payment
  • 5 Simultaneous Connections
  • Ad-free Browsing
  • Additional Malware Protection
View Package

12 Months

$11.95 $2.50 per month save 79%
  • 5 Simultaneous Connections
  • Ad-free Browsing
  • Additional Malware Protection
View Package

TOP10VPN RATING

Recommended For

  • Streaming

    Currently working with Netflix, although access can be intermittent

  • Travel

    A no-nonsense solution for secure browsing on the go

  • Privacy

    If all you want is basic encryption and to hide your IP, this does the job

Hotspot Shield Overview

Launched in 2005, Hotspot Shield is a well-established budget VPN. If your needs are basic, it offers a very affordable entry into the world of online privacy. It’s easy to use, connects very quickly and has servers in most major locations. Speeds are also impressive given the very low price point. It’s the perfect solution for a price-conscious traveller or someone looking to browse privately.

If you are looking for a 100% reliable streaming solution to help you unlock extra content from the big providers, we recommend looking at other VPN providers. Hotspot Shield does however reliably work with BBC iPlayer, which is a plus. We have also found it to work sporadically with Netflix. Similarly, if you are a frequent torrenter, look elsewhere as the company’s incorporation in the US means they comply with law enforcement requests.

What we like
  • Very affordable VPN
  • Super simple app
  • Performs well for speed given price point
What we like less
  • Limited server locations with no city-level choices
  • Doesn't reliably work with all streaming services
  • A bit bare bones for more advanced users

SPEED & PERFORMANCE
8.1

Hotspot Shield might not boast the eye-catching speeds of its more expensive competitors but given the price-point, the speeds are pretty impressive and certainly fast enough for streaming video without hiccup. Performance on the China server is also very good given the generally suppressed speeds suffered in that country, making Hotspot Shield Elite a good option for users looking to access China-only services, such as Youku.

Connection time is very impressive, outperforming its rivals comfortably with its snappiness. Latency is also very low, which puts it in the frame for cash-strapped gamers looking for an affordable VPN.

Feature Hotspot ShieldExpressVPNNordVPN
Max Download Speed 33.33 (FRA)61.14 (UK)46.57 (US)
Max Upload Speed 41.34 (DE)36.64 (FRA)36.14 (US)
Ping time 4ms5ms5ms
Unlimited Bandwidth TrueTrueTrue
Average time to connect 2s8s13s
Reliability score 7.89.89.6
Tested and working with BBC iPlayer, Sling TV, Kodi, NetflixNetflix, BBC iPlayer, HBO, Gaming, Kodi, TorrentingNetflix, BBC iPlayer, Torrenting, Sling TV, Kodi

Speed breakdown

SERVER LOCATION Download Speed (Mbps) Upload Speed (Mbps)
Australia 19.11 1.99
Brazil N/A N/A
China 5.14 2.15
France 33.33 15.04
Germany 30.47 41.34
Mexico 21.04 16.19
UK 31.51 19.86
USA 30.48 15.87

How do we test these VPN speeds?

  • We continuously test the performance of all our featured VPN providers to ensure you have all the latest information you need to choose.
  • We use the Ookla Speedtest tool on our fibre-optic line in central London, via our own paid-for VPN accounts to ensure the fairest results.
  • Our normal download speed is around 40Mbps, upload 18Mbps and ping 3ms and results are from London to the most popular global locations.
  • Our tests are intended to give you an idea of the range of connection speeds. The closer the server and faster your connection, the faster your speeds.

LOCATIONS
6.9

Hotspot Shield may offer a slim choice of server locations but it has the main locations most VPN light users would need, covering off North America, major European countries and Australia.

Asian coverage is very thin but the inclusion of a China server makes HSS an appealing budget choice for users wishing to access China-only content, such as video site Youku. Check our server list below before buying as there are some gaps in coverage, such as Italy, that might affect your decision.

Feature Hotspot ShieldExpressVPNNordVPN
Server Locations 2014557
Servers 2,0001,000+790
IP addresses 300,00020,000+2,000
Dynamic server switching FalseFalseTrue

Server locations

Most popular locations

  • USA

  • Japan

  • Australia

  • UK

  • Canada

  • China

  • Czech Republic

  • Germany

  • Denmark

  • Spain

  • France

  • Hong Kong

  • Ireland

  • India

  • Netherlands

  • Russia

  • Sweden

  • Turkey

  • Ukraine

  • Mexico

See all supported locations…

CUSTOMER SUPPORT
7.2

Hotspot Shield could do a lot better on customer support. There is no live chat option and the only support avenue is via a form submission on the site that has a restrictive structure that makes it awkward to ask general questions.

Support request response time was impressively fast but really let down by the quality. Responses were canned and not directly relevant to our questions. We gave up after three attempts to solve our issue. The knowledge base is very basic and is put to shame by competitors’ efforts. The lack of video is also a downside.

All that said, Hotspot Shield Elite is so incredibly simple to use, there’s a fair chance you may not need any support and at this price point, there will always be trade-offs.

 

Feature Hotspot ShieldExpressVPNNordVPN
Support Quality 2.4109.2
Response time 4hrs 52mins12hrs 19mins46hrs
24/7 support TrueTrueTrue
Live chat FalseTrueTrue
Knowledge base TrueTrueTrue
Video tutorials FalseTrueTrue

EASE OF USE
8.7

What we like
  • Just click the button and go
  • Snappy connection time
  • Accessible to even the most inexperienced users
What we like less
  • Very barebones - no advanced options
  • Details of your connection are opaque
  • Links to sites built into app feel superfluous

You can’t really get much simpler than Hotspot Shield Elite. There is a big connect button and a drop-down menu of server locations below it. Select a location and hit the button. That’s it. Connection time is incredibly quick, so no frustrating wait. The other elements on the app main view, such as network name or links to Netflix, feel a bit superfluous but they are certainly not confusing.

The app is almost simple to a fault in that the options are very limited indeed, with no facility to change protocols or select servers optimised for specific tasks for example. Aside from a couple of toggle switches for IP leak protection and when the app should start automatically, there is little configurability. However, if you just want a one-button VPN, it doesn’t get much easier than this.

Is Hotspot Shield compatible with my device?

Feature Hotspot ShieldExpressVPNNordVPN
Windows TrueTrueTrue
Mac TrueTrueTrue
Linux FalseTrueManual
iOS TrueTrueTrue
Android TrueTrueTrue
Windows Phone FalseManual Manual
Blackberry FalseTrueFalse
Router FalseTrueManual
Kindle FalseTrueFalse
Games Consoles FalseManual False

PRIVACY
7.9

Hotspot Shield does some things right in terms of privacy, such as its zero-logging policy beyond recording your IP address for support purposes. However, it does suffer from some issues that make it difficult to recommend for people with high-level privacy and security needs. It’s incorporated in the US and lacks its own DNS servers.

The lack of information or options regarding standard security protocols and features is also a concern. For safer browsing on airport Wi-Fi or watching iPlayer outside the UK, Hotspot Shield is perfectly sufficient. For more stringent privacy needs, look elsewhere.

Torrenters should also find another solution as P2P traffic is not permitted.

Feature Hotspot ShieldExpressVPNNordVPN
Open VPN (Auto) FalseTrueFalse
Open VPN (UDP/TCP) FalseTrueTrue
PPTP FalseTrueTrue
SSTP FalseTrueTrue
L2TP/IPSec TrueTrueTrue
IKEv2 FalseFalseTrue
Proprietary Protocols TrueTrueFalse
Supports TCP Port 443 FalseTrueFalse
Supports Obfsproxy FalseFalseTrue
Supports Multihop FalseFalseTrue
Supports SSH Tunnel FalseFalseFalse
Supports SSL Tunnel FalseFalseTrue
Permits P2P FalseTrueTrue
Strongest Encryption AES-256AES-256AES-256
First party DNS servers FalseTrueTrue
DNS Leak Blocking TrueTrueTrue
Killswitch FalseTrueTrue
Accepts Bitcoin TrueTrueTrue
Accepts Paypal TrueTrueTrue
Anonymous Payment Method FalseTrueTrue
Activity Logging FalseFalseFalse
Connection Logging TrueTrueFalse
Tor over VPN server FalseFalseTrue

VALUE FOR MONEY
7.5

What we like
  • Very affordable price point
  • No-frills VPN service that's super easy to use
  • Works well with some streaming services, such as BBC iPlayer
What we like less
  • Access to Netflix can be spotty
  • Lacks deeper features of more expensive rivals
  • Limited server locations outside most popular options

final score
7.7

“Hotspot Shield is a no-frills budget option for basic VPN protection with on-off access to streaming services.”

See Hotspot Shield packages