Hidester is a new VPN on the market offering a reliable solution to users in high-censorship countries.
Performance is good enough on local connections but we don’t recommend it to gamers or torrenters due to high latency, and international speeds could be a lot better.
Access to Netflix is currently possible but unreliable at the best of times and iPlayer is completely blocked.
The simple desktop app is easy to set up, making it perfect for VPN newbies, but you’ll have to look elsewhere if you want to protect any devices outside of the four main platforms.
Incorporated in Hong Kong, where no data retention laws exist, Hidester ticks some important boxes for privacy, including a minimal-logging policy and advanced features such as a VPN kill switch and integrated DNS leak testing.
Customer service leaves much to be desired with no live chat and unreliable email support.
Pricing & Deals
Hidester pricing is straightforward with just three plans to choose from that 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 of $8.00 is cheaper than most VPN services. Hidester offers a 35% discount for their 12-month plan, which works out at $5.00 per month. This is a mid-range price, but there are better value options out there.
Get an extra 10% off any Hidester plan
Hidester Pricing & Deals
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, the guarantee does not cover change of mind. Within the refund period, you only get your money back 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, period.
There is no refer-a-friend scheme but you can join the provider’s affiliate program in which you earn commission for each friend that signs up through the affiliate link you provide.
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, again, you will not be eligible for a refund.
Over a dozen other cryptocurrencies are accepted, including Monero, Ethereum and Litecoin. Unfortunately, Hidester currently does not accept international payments options, such as Alipay and UnionPay, which may deter some.
Speed & Reliability
Hidester won’t win any awards for speed but it shouldn’t let you down either. It’s fast enough for reliable HD on local connections but is less of a sure bet on distant servers. Latency is pretty high so gamers should definitely look elsewhere.
Download speeds on local connections are solid if unspectacular. At up to 66Mbps, this is more than enough for HD streaming, just not on multiple devices simultaneously. International downloads are frequently respectable, if naturally slower, with UK-US connections approaching 43Mbps and UK-Canada exceeding an impressive 70Mbps.
This VPN performed poorly in latency tests, even on local connection. Ping times of 15ms are way slower than competitors, ruling out gamers from using the service. International ping times are extremely laggy, with London to LA exceeding 150ms.
In general, we found Hidester to be reliable, with no connection drops to speak of and generally acceptable connection times when switching between servers.
Uploads are zippy on local connections, topping 94Mbps, which is easily fast enough for casual P2P use. There are faster providers for heavier users though. Speeds drop significantly on more distant connections and you shouldn’t expect reliable HD quality Skype video calls between the UK and Australia, although it’s fast enough over shorter distances
Overall, performance is solid. It’s fast enough to browse the web and stream HD video as long as you don’t do too much at once. Avid gamers and torrenters should look elsewhere however as the top providers leave them for dust, even at similar price points.
To find out about our speed testing methodologies, please read How We Review VPNs.
With just 45 servers located in 35 countries, Hidester’s offering is relatively small in comparison to other VPN providers like Hotspot Shield and IPVanish. Hidester does offer city-level choice in the US, however, with a respectable eight cities covering the east and west coasts. France also has a choice of two cities.
Hidester doesn’t reveal the number of IP addresses it has to offer, which doesn’t convince us of their abundance. However, we were informed by the support team that ‘depending of the load [the number of IP addresses] will change’, which shows that they are taking user experience into consideration. Some servers only work with Hidester’s proprietary protocol, meaning that if you want to exclusively use OpenVPN, your server choice is further limited.
What’s more, those residing in the Asia-Pacific region (including Australia), Africa and South America may struggle to obtain a fast and reliable connection with limited servers in those regions. Those located in censorship-heavy China are advised to connect to their servers in Tokyo and Hong Kong. We also found the only server located in Canada to be working intermittently, which is frustrating.
You can find the complete and up-to-date list of Hidester server locations by country, city and purpose on the website below.
Platforms & Devices
Hidester is compatible with the most popular platforms, including Microsoft Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android and Linux and claims to be increasing compatibility for other operating systems.
Although set up on these devices is pretty self-explanatory, the provider offers simple, step-by-step guides in the Support section of its website should you need them.
Hidester does not currently offer any dedicated browser extensions, which is fine if you aren’t a heavy browser user.
However, if you would like a more lightweight experience, many providers offer at least proxy extensions, if not full-featured VPN extensions, such as those offered by ExpressVPN.
Games Consoles & Streaming Devices
Hidester currently doesn’t have dedicated apps or easy setup for consoles and streaming devices and we haven’t come across any simple guides for manual configuration either. There are also no guides for configuring the VPN onto a router, which would protect all connected devices in your home.
Hidester’s generous offer of five simultaneous connections seems a little redundant in this respect. We also don’t like that you are required to buy a separate subscription for each individual user, including family members, or risk suspension, which is something we’ve not seen with any other providers.
If you are looking to easily protect a wide range of devices, such as your Amazon Fire TV Stick or games console, look into provides that offer one-click solutions for these types of devices or at the very least are compatible with routers- Windscribe is a good example of a provider that offers both.
Streaming & Torrenting
If you are looking for a reliable VPN for watching your favorite shows, Hidester probably isn’t for you. Streaming Netflix proved very tricky, with many US servers blocked and no easy way of finding the ones that do work. We also experienced some problems with video quality when we selected the HD option.
To watch Netflix effortlessly with a VPN, use one of these VPNs.
Unfortunately, we found BBC iPlayer to be blocked on both of Hidester’s UK servers, which is a common issue among VPN provider at the moment since the BBC are cracking down on VPN traffic. If streaming iPlayer is a make-or-break for you, take at a look at these VPN services.
Hidester allows torrenting, listing 20+ P2P-friendly servers distributed fairly evenly around the world. Coupled with upload speeds of up to 94Mbps and download speeds of 66Mbps on local connections, your torrenting experience should be pretty smooth. Just make sure to check whether there’s a P2P server in your desired location first.
Encryption & Security
Hidester ticks some important boxes in this area but still has some work to do if it wants to begin competing with top-tier providers.
You can choose between two VPN protocols: OpenVPN, which we recommend using whenever possible as it offers the best balance between privacy and performance, and Hidester’s proprietary protocol CamoVPN. 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 via top cipher AES-256.
The all-important VPN kill switch is appealing even if it must be manually activated and 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, via web proxy and called 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.
- OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
- DNS Leak Blocking
- First-party DNS
- VPN Kill Switch
- WebRTC Leak Blocking
As a less well-known VPN, Hidester is flying under the radar in China and continues to work there despite the ban. The extra layer of obfuscation added to OpenVPN that forms the proprietary protocol CamoVPN is the one to use to access blocked content in the country.
However, due to the limited number of nearby servers and lack of additional protocols, such as LT2P/IPSec, the censors in China – or indeed Turkey or Iran – could come to recognize Hidester’s proprietary protocol and successfully block it. This would leave you high and dry, subjected once more to the restrictive regime’s high levels of censorship and surveillance.
The good value one-month subscription however does make this VPN an appealing back-up for a trip to a high-censorship country should unrestricted access to the internet be critical for you.
Hidester’s approach to logging appears to be pretty sensible- at least from what we can tell. However, we don’t like that the provider claims to be a ‘zero-logs’ VPN when it clearly does retain connection metadata, including:
- Your connection country (but not your IP address)
- VPN server location (but not its IP address)
- Date of connection but – crucially – not the exact time
- Total amount of data transferred per day
As is standard among providers, it does not log any websites you visit while connected to the VPN.
We would like to see a much more exhaustive list of things that the service does and doesn’t do before being able to unreservedly recommend Hidester for privacy.
Hidester is incorporated in Hong Kong where no data retention laws exist. This, coupled with their minimal-logging policy, would in theory make Hidester a good choice for those looking to efficiently hide their IP address and browse public WiFi safely. But for reasons outlined above, it’s not the best choice for those seeking the highest levels of privacy.
Ease of Use
Hidester offers a user-friendly desktop app for a smooth and easy experience. The main screen is clutter-free, with a big connect button in the center and your chosen server location beneath. To access the full list of servers, all you need to do is click ‘change location’.
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 (found at the top left) in order to configure the kill switch and DNS servers.
The fact that you have to manually activate the kill switch every time you log on is annoying- as well as a 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.
Once you’ve purchased the VPN, it takes only a few minutes from downloading the app to connecting to your chosen server. The installation prompts are fairly simple but do ask questions about your intended usage, such as where you are located and whether you will be using the VPN download torrents or access geo-blocked content. This is something we don’t usually see with other providers and it’s unclear how your responses go on to tailor your VPN experience.
Once downloaded, Hidester offers a simple start-up tutorial, including guidance on selecting a server, connecting to the VPN and where to find advanced features. It doesn’t go into detail but is enough to get you started. Should you need more information, their website offers step-by-step guides for setting up the software on popular devices. All that’s left to do after this is sign in with your log-in details and connect to your preferred server.
Despite claims of 24/7 support, Hidester offers no live chat function and the online form is highly unreliable. We resorted to emailing the support team directly, only to receive an impersonal and incomplete response hours later. Hidester will need to improve their customer service if it wants to compete with providers, like VPNArea, whose helpful support agents truly are available 24/7.
Their website does, however, offer installation tutorials, information about particular software features and a comprehensive blog. These could be improved by adding some video content, however the step-by-step posts are enough to answer basic setup queries and troubleshooting.
The Bottom Line
- Local connection speeds of up to 66Mbps
- Currently works with Netflix
- User-friendly desktop app
- Securely connects to 35 countries
- VPN kill switch and integrated DNS/WebRTC leak testing
- Limited number of servers
- Short refund period of 3-7 days
- No live chat support and slow responses to email