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Hotspot Shield Review

Rebecca Duff
By Rebecca DuffUpdated
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Hotspot Shield screenshot

Hotspot Shield: Ranked #18 out of 99 VPNs that we tested

  1. Superb download speeds: 89Mbps (peak local)
  2. Currently working with Netflix and iPlayer
  3. User-friendly apps for popular devices
  4. Connect securely to 73 countries
  5. Real-time malware protection
  1. Based in privacy-unfriendly US
  2. Past controversies around the free VPN app
  3. No configurable settings on desktop client

Works with

Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Sky, Now TV, HBO, SlingTV, Torrenting

Available on

  1. Windows
  2. Mac
  3. Ios
  4. Android

Price from

Speed & Reliability

One of the fastest VPNs we've tested

Speed results from our physical location in London (100Mbps fibre optic connection) to a London test server.

Before using Hotspot Shield:

  1. DownloadMbps

    95.88

  2. UploadMbps

    92.34

  3. Pingms

    7

When connected to Hotspot Shield:

  1. DownloadMbps

    88.89

  2. UploadMbps

    59.05

  3. Pingms

    9

Download speed without Hotspot Shield: 96Mbps

Download speed with Hotspot Shield: 89Mbps

Download speed loss when Hotspot Shield is running: 7%

Hotspot Shield is one of the fastest VPN providers we’ve seen. We experienced lightning-fast downloads on all the servers we tested.

You’ll be able to do pretty much anything you want to do online through Hotspot Shield without breaking a sweat – HD streaming, private torrenting, and lag-free gaming.

Hotspot Shield doesn’t use OpenVPN – we usually use this protocol for speed tests – and instead uses a proprietary protocol, for which very limited technical information is available.

While Hotspot Shield is a super fast VPN, it’s harder to say whether it’s as secure as the other top-tier VPN services.

Server Locations

Large number of individual servers covering 73 countries

Globe with a blue flag73Countries
Image of a city landscape98Cities
Image of a pink marker2,500+IP Addresses

We mostly experienced Hotspot Shield’s very high speeds when connecting to nearby server, and thankfully a recent update to the Windows app brings the total to 98 worldwide server locations. Unfortunately, MacOS users are still limited to just 25 countries.

Screenshot of Hotspot Shield City Servers

Hotspot Shield provides 2,500 individual servers – a very good number – which cover 98 cities in 73 countries around the world. The servers are all very well spread out, so there are few gaps in the coverage, with servers located in six continents.

The recent update to Hotspot Shield has also introduced 26 city-level servers in the US, which is great news for US users and those seeking a specific US location from abroad.

Streaming & Torrenting

Works effortlessly with streaming and torrenting services

Hotspot Shield works with US Netflix and BBC iPlayer. We’ve not had a single issue for at least six months now, making Hotspot Shield a truly reliable VPN option for streaming fans.

There are no dedicated streaming servers – but most servers we’ve tested work well for streaming, so just select a country and start watching.

Torrenting

Torrenting through Hotspot Shield works very well. Torrenting and P2P traffic is fully permitted and unrestricted on any of Hotspot Shield’s servers.

Bypassing Censorship

Doesn't work in China or other high-censorship countries

Hotspot Shield isn’t a great option for those in highly censored countries – it even says as much on its website.

The honesty is appreciated, but it doesn’t change the fact that it probably won’t be able to help you if you’re in China, Pakistan, UAE, or seemingly any other nation with government-implemented web blocks.

Platforms & Devices

Coverage limited to most popular platforms, no router support

Apps

Windows LogoWindows
Mac LogoMac
iOS LogoiOS
Android LogoAndroid

Hotspot Shield will work on your smartphone and desktop or laptop computer – it has apps for Microsoft Windows, Apple MacOS, iOS and Google Android.

That that’s where coverage ends, though. There’s no support for less popular operating systems, like Linux, and you can’t install it on your router to cover streaming or gaming consoles.

Browser Extensions

Chrome LogoChrome
Firefox LogoFirefox

Hotspot Shield does provide browser extensions, though, which is a big plus for Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox users. These extensions can spoof your location, block ads and trackers, as well as protect you from malware.

That said, Hotspot Shield’s browser add-ons are just proxies and not full VPNs, so be sure to use the extensions alongside the main VPN app for total protection.

Encryption & Security

Strong encryption but a lack of transparency about the proprietary protocol

Protocol

Proprietary

Encryption

AES-256

Security

IPV6 Leak Blocking

VPN Kill Switch

Advanced features

Ad Blocker

Please see our VPN Glossary if these terms confuse you and would like to learn more.

Hotspot Shield uses HydraVPN as its one and only VPN protocol – it’s unique to Hotspot Shield, and there are not many details about how it works. It appears to be a secure proprietary security protocol, but we don’t know how secure it is exactly.

The app gives no option to change protocols to more familiar ones 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 and fixed. Read Hotspot Shield’s clarification of what happened.

Hotspot Shield 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.

Logging Policy

Logs IP addresses while connected, and based in Five Eyes jurisdiction

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 recommend you take a look at our NordVPN review.

In 2017, Hotspot Shield was accused of ‘unfair and deceptive trade practices’ – these alleged practices only involved the free version of the app, but it was still a sizeable breach of trust. Those practices have since been halted.

Jurisdiction

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 its annual Transparency Report. The report shows the number of data requests Hotspot Shield received from authorities around the world since 2016, and crucially that Hotspot Shield never handed over any data.

Ease of Use

Very simple apps with fast setup

How to Install & Set Up Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield’s apps are so simple and easy to use that there’s practically no room for error, even for complete beginners.

Expert users may well be left wanting, though, since there are so few advanced settings or options to play around with.

Browser Extensions

Screenshot of Hotspot Shield Chrome Extension

Hotspot Shield’s browser extensions for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are really easy to setup. Just go to the Chrome Web or Mozilla Add-Ons store, download the extension, log in and connect.

Customer Support

24/7 live chat support available

24/7 Live chat support
Online Resources

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 talk to a customer support agent.

Hotspot Shield’s email support 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 basic when compared to other top-tier VPN providers.

Pricing & Deals

Great value for money on the two-year plan

Hotspot Shield Coupon

Hotspot Shield Pricing Plan

While a 12-month plan is priced at a moderate $5.99 per month, Hotspot Shield’s three-year plan costs just $2.99 per month – a very competitive price.

  1. Monthly

    US$12.99/mo

    Billed $12.99 every month
  2. 12 months

    US$5.99/mo

    Billed $71.88 every 12 months
    Save 54%
  3. 3 years

    US$2.99/mo

    Billed $107.64 every 3 years
    Save 76%

All plans have 45-day money-back guarantee

Payment Options

Credit Card
PayPal
AliPay
UnionPay

Hotspot Shield offers a 45-day money-back guarantee, which is generous, but it does involve submitting a form for review. Whether you receive a refund or not is up to Hotspot Shield, so it’s not exactly risk-free. There’s a seven-day free trial, too.

While Hotspot Shield offers all the most popular payment methods, there’s no option to pay with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Litecoin.

Top10VPN

You’ve read our expert review - read on for reviews from real users.

User Reviews

 88% 
4.4 out of 5 stars

Based on 26 reviews

  1. 5 star
     0% 
    (16)
  2. 4 star
     0% 
    (7)
  3. 3 star
     0% 
    (2)
  4. 2 star
     0% 
    (0)
  5. 1 star
     0% 
    (1)

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Best Positive Review
 100% 

Always dependable!

Verified Purchase

When I was living in Mexico I remember that I was always blocked out of certain American radio stations and apps, like Tune In, but my nephew told me about Hotspot Shield, and ever since I started using it, it worked to bypass the international restrictions. I also liked how user friendly it is, and how it works silently in the background, without slowing down my laptop.

Best Critical Review
 60% 

Works great, but with quirks.

Verified Purchase

The VPN functionality works as it should, but there are a few quirks that appear now and then, and some that have been around since I signed up. On Android 8.1.0, and prior versions: i) Despite the the fact that I have it set not to auto start on reboot, it does so. ii) The app continually restarts no matter that I quit it. I have to terminate it in Android settings. iii) When I do start it, even though I set it to auto turn-on with unsecured and secured wi-fi, and even mobile networks, it does not do so - I have to start the connection manually. I reported these three problems when I signed up, and just gave up waiting for them to be fixed. On Windows 10: i) Occasional cases where response times are awful, but I've never reported these; ii) A current problem from the latest version update, which I've reported as a bug, where the App auto starts and auto turns on even though all settings are contrary to that requirement. But, overall good enough and I stick with it.

Showing 1-3 of 26 Reviews
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  1.  100% 

    I Agree with you

    I have used Hotspot Shield for many years and when tested against many of the big names it was always faster. I find it reliable and never need to use customer support anymore. It did not work well in China when I last tried to use it there.

  2.  20% 

    Terrible service

    I used this whilst I was in China. It automatically runs when you boot up the computer. I was sent to Ghana or Nigeria, I can't remember where and booted up my laptop. One of these countries is on their 'don't use in this country' list so they continued to take my money but stopped my access as punishment. I explained to them what had happened after I discovered why I had not Internet access through the VPN but they couldn't give a damn. It was a good piece of software, but terrible inhuman service when you need to deal with actual humans.

  3.  100% 

    Great for torrenting.

    It was great for protection, I didn't have to worry when I was downloading torrents, it was great! I would definately recommend hotspot shield to friends if they needed it.

See all 26 Hotspot Shield user reviews