Hotspot Shield is a well-established VPN for those with basic privacy needs on a budget. It offers incredibly fast performance on both local and international connections, and currently works with both Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
Sleek, user-friendly custom apps are available for popular platforms, but it’s incompatible with anything outside of these – including routers.
It offers strong encryption and some solid privacy features, like a VPN kill switch, and while the server network is a little on the small side it still covers most popular locations.
Pricing & Deals
While even an annual plan comes in at a comparatively pricey $5.99 per month, Hotspot Shield costs just $2.99 per month on the two-year plan – a very competitive figure.
Hotspot Shield Coupon
Get 76% off Hotspot Shield's 2-year plan
Hotspot Shield Pricing & Deals
The 45-day no-questions-asked money-back guarantee is the most generous we’ve seen from any provider, and there’s also a seven day trial, too.
While Hotspot Shield offers the usual popular ways to pay, such as major credit and debit cards, PayPal, Neosurf and Alipay, there’s no option to pay with cryptocurrency.
Speed & Reliability
Hotspot Shield is one of the fastest providers we’ve, seen producing very quick downloads on all the servers we tested.
Latency is so low as to be a non-issue, which is great news for gamers, and top-tier upload speeds are great news for P2P fans.
Hotspot Shield performs exceptionally well on local connections, peaking at over 90Mbps in the UK, the Netherlands, and France – more than quick enough for high-bandwidth multi-tasking.
Connecting out to the US East Coast from Europe you can expect very fast speeds of 84Mbps, which puts it up there with many of our top-tier providers.
We also logged latency as low as 3ms on the UK server, putting Hotspot Shield very much in the frame for gamers.
To read about our speed testing methodologies, please read How We Review VPNs.
Hotspot Shield’s excellent performance is only guaranteed if you’re located near a server, though, and there aren’t many to go around.
2,500 servers is a very good number, but they’re located in just 29 cities in 29 countries around the world. Fortunately they’re all very well spread out, so there are few gaps in the coverage – with the glaring exception of Africa, which is ignored entirely.
Platforms & Devices
The good news is that your smartphone and desktop or laptop computer are likely covered by Hotspot Shield – it has apps for Microsoft Windows, Apple MacOS, iOS and Google Android.
The bad news is that that’s where coverage ends – there’s no support for less popular OS’, like Linux, and you can’t install it at router level to cover streaming or gaming devices.
It does provide browser extensions, though, which is a big plus for Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox users. They can spoof your location, block ads and trackers, and protect you from malware.
That said, they are just proxies and not full VPNs, so be sure to use them alongside the main app for total coverage.
Streaming & Torrenting
We’ve not had a single issue with accessing US Netflix or the British BBC iPlayer for at least six months now – Hotspot Shield is a truly reliable option for streaming fans.
There are no dedicated servers – just select a nation and start watching.
Torrenting works seamlessly, too, as it’s fully permitted and unrestricted on any server you like.
Encryption & Security
Hotspot Shield uses HydraVPN as its one and only protocol – it’s unique to the service, and rather opaque, so we don’t know just how secure it is. There’s no option to change it to a more familiar protocol like OpenVPN or IKEv2.
There was also a major security flaw discovered in February 2018 that allowed hackers to see your true location via your WiFi network name, but it was addressed (even if Hotspot Shield denied its existence in the first place).
It gets the rest right, though, with AES-256 encryption, a VPN kill switch, and no IPv6 or DNS leaks.
As an added plus, it offers real-time malware protection which performed well in recent tests by AV-TEST.
- IPV6 Leak Blocking
- VPN Kill Switch
- Ad Blocker
Hotspot Shield won’t work in censored countries – it even says as much on its website.
The honesty is appreciated, but it doesn’t change the fact that it won’t be able to help you if you’re in China, Pakistan, Turkey, or seemingly any other nation with government-implemented web blocks.
Hotspot Shield logs the following:
- Your IP address – encrypted, only for the duration of your session, and not linked with your activity while using the VPN
- Device-specific information, such as the unique mobile ID, hardware model, operating system version, language, and network information – upon opening the app but before connecting to the VPN, to improve the service and perform analytics
It’s a longer list than we’d like to see, but we also feel confident that nothing is collected which could be used to link your identity to your activity. In fact, no activity is logged whatsoever.
If you’re interested in a provider that keeps absolutely no logs whatsoever, for any reason, then we would recommend you take a look at our PrivateVPN review.
In 2017, Hotspot Shield was accused of ‘unfair and deceptive trade practices’ – it only involved the free version of the app, but it was still a sizable breach of trust. Those practices have since been halted – you can read more about them here.
Hotspot Shield is based in the US, which has intrusive privacy laws and is part of the Five Eyes data-sharing membership
In January 2019, Hotspot Shield released their annual Transparency Report. It shows the number of data requests received from authorities around the world since 2016, and crucially that they never handed over any data.
Ease of Use
You’ll struggle to make a misstep with Hotspot Shield – the apps are so simple and easy to use that there’s practically no room for error, even for complete beginners.
Experts may actually be left somewhat wanting, as there’s so few advanced settings or options to play around with.
Getting started with Hotspot Shield is really easy, even if you’ve never used a VPN before. All you have to do is log in to your account on the website, download the relevant software for your device and then follow the tips given to you by the installation wizard.
There are step by step installation guides on the support section of the website if you get stuck.
The around-the-clock live support is by far the best way to get your queries addressed and problems solved with Hotspot Shield. Responses are well-informed and you don’t even need to have an account to chat with an agent.
The email form is a lot more limited, with some queries restricted to premium subscribers. The knowledge base and FAQs, while nice to have, are also very threadbare when compared to rivals.
The Bottom Line
- Excellent server speeds of 97Mbps on local connections
- Currently working with Netflix and iPlayer
- Sleek, user-friendly apps for popular platforms
- Connect securely to 29 countries
- Generous 45-day money-back guarantee
- Limited choice of countries
- Based in privacy-unfriendly US
- Past controversies around the free VPN app
- No configurable settings on desktop app
Hotspot Shield is a super-fast, reliable VPN that has worked hard to regain its users’ trust following recent controversies.
It’s very reasonably priced if you opt for one of the longer plans, plus a generous 45-day money-back guarantee.
Performance is outstanding on both local and international connections, and access to Netflix or BBC iPlayer is an added bonus.
It offers basic privacy features like a kill switch and DNS leak protection, along with strong encryption and a minimal logging policy.
The custom apps are incredibly sleek, modern and user-friendly, even if they’re only available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, with no manual workarounds for other devices such as routers.