Logs some user data from its Hong Kong jurisdiction
Logging & Jurisdiction
Hidester is incorporated in Hong Kong, and has been since October 2016.
We haven’t been able to find much more about Hidester than that, and we really tried.
We couldn’t even find the name of the boss in charge. We always prefer transparency with VPNs — it builds greater trust.
Still, Hong Kong is a good place to base your VPN as no data retention laws exist. Hidester won’t be forced to hand over sensitive personal details.
This, coupled with its minimal-logging policy, in theory makes Hidester a good choice for anyone looking to hide their IP address and browse public WiFi safely.
Because of its vague logging policy, we can’t recommend it for anyone looking for the absolute highest levels of privacy.
Hidester claims to be a ‘zero-logs’ VPN but it clearly collects connection data. This data includes:
- Your connection country (but not your IP address)
- VPN server location
- Date of connection (but not the exact time)
- Total amount of data transferred per day
Hidester does not log any websites you visit while connected to the VPN, which is standard for all good VPN services.
What’s much less reassuring is what Hidester doesn’t tell you – this is one of the shortest privacy policies we’ve seen – just one paragraph relates to the use of the Hidester’s VPN service.
There is no clear policy around how long that data is stored for before it is deleted, nor how it is stored.
There is reference to “diagnosis data” that is shared with a “third party analytics provider” with no clear definitions of what that data contains. We would like to see a much more exhaustive list of things that Hidester VPN does and doesn’t do before being able to fully recommend it for privacy.
Slow long-distance connection speeds
Speed & Reliability
With a loss to our download speeds of less than 20% on servers in our own country, Hidester is more than fast enough for everyday encrypted browsing. However it's when connecting to more distant VPN servers, like those in the US and Asia, that Hidester really begins to heavily impact your internet speeds. Its New Jersey server slowed our speeds all the way down to 14Mbps.
We found Hidester’s overall speed performance to be acceptable. Connecting to a nearby server will produce speeds fast enough to browse without much interruption, but connecting to distant servers will reduce your speeds dramatically.
If you’re looking to get an IP address in a country far from your real location, we recommend using a different VPN.
Local Speed Test results before using Hidester VPN:
- Download Speed: 98.11Mbps
- Upload Speed: 97.9Mbps
- Ping: 3ms
Local Speed Test results with Hidester VPN:
Download speed loss when Hidester VPN is running: 18%
Download speed without Hidester: 98.11Mbps
Download speed with Hidester: 80.33Mbps
Our download speed loss when Hidester is running: 18%
As you can see, we recorded fast speeds when connecting to a local Hidester server — a loss of 18% when connecting to the UK (where we test from) and 30% when connecting further away in Germany.
These results aren’t threatening high-end VPNs for speed, but you won’t have any problems with most online tasks with Hidester.
The real problem with Hidester is its distant connections, which are painfully slow.
From our location in the UK, we tested average speeds connecting out to various locations worldwide while connected to Hidester. These are the results we got:
- USA: 14Mbps (download) & 8Mbps (upload)
- Germany: 68Mbps (download) & 26Mbps (upload)
- Singapore: 6Mbps (download) & 0.3Mbps (upload)
- Australia: 6Mbps (download) & 3Mbps (upload)
A speed decrease when connecting across continents and oceans is normal and we take that into account, but a 93% speed loss in Singapore and a 94% speed loss in Australia is not good, at all.
In the case of Singapore, we even had a 99% decrease in upload speeds.
Most surprising of all, though, is how much speeds dropped when connecting to the East Coast of the US. If you want to watch US Netflix from a location outside of America Hidester likely isn’t fast enough to do that without some buffering.
Ping times also underperformed across the board of servers. Locally, where you expect latency to be at its lowest, we clocked 23ms. If you’re a gamer reading this and looking for a VPN, Hidester isn’t it.
Unless you’re solely interested in short-distance connections, Hidester isn’t fast enough.
Cannot unblock streaming services
Hidester VPN does not work to unblock any of the streaming services that we test for. We tried multiple locations with all three of its protocols, but nothing worked. It doesn't have any servers labeled for streaming, either, so testing is a case of trial-and-error.
We tested Hidester VPN against the proxy detectors of US Netflix. Running all the available US servers, we had zero success unlocking the service.
That’s disappointing, but how about BBC iPlayer? Nope. Hidester’s UK VPN server didn’t unlock that, either.
Needless to say, Hidester isn’t a good VPN for streaming. We recommend that you consult this list of top options for streaming, if this is what you need from your VPN service.
Hidester is no good for torrenting
Hidester returned absolutely horrible speeds in our torrenting tests. Our download bitrate dropped from 11.2MiB/s to 1.2MiB/s. It allows P2P traffic on 20 of its 30 global locations, but there's some big gaps in its coverage. The kill switch and its reliable encryption are the only things Hidester does well for torrenters.
Servers which allow torrenting are designated with an icon within the Hidester app.
It’s not available on all servers – 20 of them permit P2P.
Plenty of VPNs don’t permit torrenting on their entire server network, so this isn’t necessarily a huge problem. What is a problem, though, is how these servers are distributed.
There are no torrenting servers in the US. If you live there then your nearest P2P server is Montreal, Canada. There’s also no torrenting server in Australia, meaning the nearest option is roughly 3,000 miles away in Malaysia. This will have a huge impact on the download speed of your torrents – and we found them to be slow even on a local connection.
On the plus side, there’s a kill switch which is there to terminate your internet connection should the VPN cut-off for any reason. It’s a security measure, and an important one for keeping your IP address hidden when you torrent.
Secure, with some interesting extra features
Security & Features
Hidester is a secure app with more emphasis on privacy and security than many VPNs we've seen. In addition to some excellent censorship-bypassing tech, it also has a number of customization options for DNS and leak protection. However, a great deal of these extras are only available on Windows.
Hidester ticks some important boxes when it comes to encryption and security. But it’s got some work to do if it wants to compete with top-tier providers.
You can choose between three protocols: OpenVPN, which we recommend using whenever possible as it offers the best balance between privacy and performance, and Hidester’s own two protocols: CamoVPN and CamoWeb.
It should be noted that the app defaults to CamoVPN on startup, so unless you’re connecting from a high-censorship country, be sure to change it.
Encryption is good quality too: top cipher AES-256.
The all-important VPN kill switch is appreciated, too, even if it has to be manually activated. The integrated DNS and WebRTC leak testing is also a plus.
While Hidester runs its own DNS server network, reducing the potential of IP leaks, these servers can be unreliable, often falling back to third-party DNS servers, such as those owned by your ISP or Google.
Beware of the third connection method, CamoWeb (not to be confused with CamoVPN). Using CamoWeb is good if you need to access a blocked site since it promises faster browsing, but it doesn’t encrypt your connection meaning your privacy isn’t protected. It is, essentially, a proxy that you turn on and off from within the Hidester app.
Small VPN server network
Hidester's VPN server network has shrunk in recent years. It still offers a serviceable 30 countries around the world, but South America and Africa only get one each. Europe and the US are best represented, with the US being the only country with servers in multiple cities. Canada and Australia are only represented by servers on their East Coasts.
Hidester VPN has 43 servers in 36 cities across 30 countries. That’s a decent number of countries, but a pretty small total number of servers.
As is common with VPNs, the US receives the most attention. Hidester has servers in seven US cities, covering the country well.
What’s less common, though, is that the US is the only country with a choice of city-level servers. Other countries may have more than one server, but they’re all within the same one city.
This becomes a real inconvenience with Australia and Canada. Such huge countries need more than one server to represent them. Canada’s is in Montreal and Australia’s is in Sydney. That means that if you’re on the West Coast or to the north of either country you’ll definitely experience sub-par speeds.
Hidester doesn’t reveal the number of IP addresses it has to offer. We were informed by the support team that:
“Depending on the load [the number of IP addresses] will change”
South America’s only server is in Brazil, and Africa’s only server is in South Africa. Hidester isn’t the only VPN to give these continents insignificant resources, but it’s still disappointing.
We also had the occasional issue establishing a connection to certain Hidester servers.
Works in China
Hidester is one of very few VPNs we've tested to work in China. It has not one but two different VPN protocols designed to beat censorship. We found that CamoVPN worked to get us access to the open internet from our test server in Shanghai.
As a lesser known VPN, Hidester seems to be flying under the radar in China. It continues to work there despite the ban and the enforcement of the Great Firewall.
Hidester is doing this via its exclusive, proprietary protocol: CamoVPN. This is essentially an extra layer of obfuscation added to OpenVPN, and it allows users of Hidester to access blocked content within the country.
However, that’s not to say Hidester won’t get blocked in the future, especially as it grows to be more well-known. This is, unfortunately, natural when it comes to VPNs in China.
As it sits now, Hidester has a guide on how to use its app in China, which is well worth reading.
Because it works in China, Hidester is also very likely to work within other censored or authoritarian regimes, including:
Available on popular platforms but lacking manual configuration
Platforms & Devices
Hidester is available for a small selection of platforms and devices: just Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Linux. All three of Hidester’s protocols are available on all platforms, as are all its servers. You do get access to some extra security features on Windows, though. There’s no router support or Smart DNS, so any other devices you own can’t be protected by Hidester.
Hidester is available to use with the most popular platforms, including:
We previously asked Hidester support about plans to support more platforms, and we were told it was planning on increasing its compatibility with other operating systems. That was more than a year ago, though, and nothing has changed.
Although setup on these devices is pretty self-explanatory, Hidester offers simple, step-by-step guides in the support section of its website should you need them.
An unremarkable app that looks best on MacOS
Ease of Use
While it looks a little dated on Windows, Hidester is a neat and rather unremarkable VPN on its other platforms. If all you want to do is choose servers and get connected then it's nice and simple. The few advanced features it has don't come with much explanation, though.
How to Install & Set Up Hidester VPN
Hidester offers a simple user experience.
The main screen is clutter-free, with a large connect button in the center and your chosen server location beneath.
You can easily change the VPN protocol by clicking ‘Advanced’ in the bottom left-hand side of the app, and it’s simple to navigate the other advanced settings in order to configure the kill switch and DNS servers.
The fact that you have to manually activate Hidester’s kill switch every time you log on is very annoying, though, and a big privacy risk.
However, once activated, if the connection drops you are clearly notified at the bottom of the desktop app with a bright blue banner clearly stating so.
Customer support needs improvement
Hidester support only operates via email - there's no live chat. Usually this approach is supplemented by plenty of online resources, but Hidester's material is very limited. There's some basic info on how to install the VPN and what its various features do, but that's about it.
|Email support via an online form||Yes|
Hidester has no live chat function, and the online form is highly unreliable – despite boasting ’24/7 support’.
We resorted to emailing the support team directly, only to receive an impersonal and incomplete response hours later.
Hidester will need to improve its customer support if it wants to compete with the best VPN providers.
The blog, while once comprehensive, is now extremely out of date. Most sections haven’t been updated by any Hidester staff member in years.
Better value for money is available
Price & Value
Hidester employs a very standard VPN pricing plan. At $9.99 for its one-month plan and $3.99 per month for its one-year plan it is entirely unremarkable. If it were a much better VPN service then $3.99 would be a very tempting price. However, it's not, and as such is hard to recommend even from a financial standpoint. Seven of our top 10 VPNs are cheaper than Hidester.
Hidester’s pricing is straightforward: there are three plans to choose from, and they get cheaper the longer you sign up for.
With no differences in the VPN features offered for each plan, it’s just a matter of how long you’d like to stick with the service.
For a 30-day rolling contract, the full price is $9.99 — cheaper than plenty of VPN services if you just want to try it out.
Hidester offers a 49% discount for its 12-month plan, which works out at $3.99 per month. $46.80 for a year of Hidester is a mid-range price in the VPN market (remember that you have to pay that fee up-front) but it’s simply not a good enough product to make it tempting.
US$9.99/moBilled $9.99 every month
US$6/moBilled $36.00 every 6 months
US$3.99/moBilled $46.80 every 12 months
All plans have 7-day money-back guarantee
Payment & Refund Options
Hidester accepts popular forms of payment such as major credit/debit cards and PayPal.
If you would like a little more anonymity, you can also pay using Bitcoin.
However, a 12-month commitment is required to use this form of payment and you will not be eligible for a refund.
Over a dozen other cryptocurrencies are accepted via CoinPayments, including:
Hidester does not accept international payments options, such as Alipay and UnionPay.
Hidester’s refund policy differs depending on the price plan you opt for. Committing to one or six months gives you a measly three-day money-back guarantee, which extends to seven days for the 12-month plan.
Although this may be sufficient time to fully test out the VPN, this is much less generous than the policies of our top-tier providers.
Worse, Hidester’s guarantee does not cover change of mind as a reason to get your money back. Within the refund period, you only get a refund if Hidester doesn’t work on your device and the support team can’t fix it.
Outside the guarantee period, refunds are at the provider’s discretion even if the service doesn’t work.
Bitcoin purchases are non-refundable, always.
Secure, but simply gets too much wrong
The Bottom Line
If you should use Hidester for anything, it’s for accessing a free internet in censored countries – particularly China.
We thoroughly applaud Hidester for creating an app that’s not only clearly focused on beating censorship, but also does a very good job of it.
However, Hidester logs connection metadata, and it’s not very fast. Though it does allow torrenting on some of its servers, it doesn’t unblock any streaming sites and its modest server network is poorly distributed.
Overall, we recommend you don’t use Hidester and opt for another VPN provider. There are far better alternatives available within the same price range.
Alternatives to Hidester VPN
PrivateVPN is better than Hidester in every way. It works reliably in China, it unblocks Netflix libraries from around the world, and it has easy-to-use apps on all platforms. It’s available for as low as $1.98a month, too, giving you much more for a lower price than Hidester. Read PrivateVPN review
With CyberGhost you can connect to a much larger number of countries than Hidester. The VPN has 7,400 servers located in 91 countries, which is a massive increase of 56 countries over Hidester’s network. Read CyberGhost review