Hotspot Shield Review

With all the buzz about online surveillance and practically every major platform on the internet being accused of data leaks or data selling, the need to secure your online privacy has never been more pressing. Read our Hotspot Shield review to find what this VPN can do for you in terms of protecting your data.

Key features:

  • Number of servers: 1,800+
  • Number of server countries: 80+
  • Maximum simultaneous connections: 5
  • Split tunneling: Yes
  • Supported protocols: Catapult Hydra, IKEv2
  • Kill switch: Yes
  • Ad blocking: No
  • Streaming services supported: Disney+, Prime Video, iPlayer, Netflix

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Numerous server locations
  • Hefty services bundle
  • Easy to use
  • Very fast
  • Split tunneling by domain
  • Relatively expensive
  • WireGuard support is limited
  • No manual connections

What Is Hotspot Shield?

Hotspot Shield is one of the most popular virtual private network services, with 650+ million subscribers and servers in more than 80 countries. Hotspot is also the #8 grossing productivity app on the US App Store. This VPN service is one of the few which uses the Catapult Hydra, a protocol that maximizes speed without compromising security.

Hotspot Shield Pricing

Hotspot’s prices are quite high in comparison to other VPN services. The same can be said when you compare it to the average $10.05 per month cost of VPN subscriptions. Hotspot offers three pricing plans.

Our Hotspot Shield free VPN review found that Hotspot Shield is one of the very few VPNs that offers a free account to users. Of course, free usage comes with certain limitations. Subscribing to the free version of Hotspot Shield means your data usage is restricted to just one simultaneous connection, 500 MB daily usage, and access only to VPN servers in the US. Free accounts are also throttled to just 2 Mbps, which is pretty slow, even for mobile devices.

Hotspot’s Premium plan costs $12.99 per month, which is pretty expensive. There’s also a Premium Family plan that costs $19.99 per month, for up to five accounts and 25 devices.

The paid plans come with a 45-day money-back guarantee. The refund is seamless, which means you don’t lose out if you’re not satisfied.

hotspot shield review - pricing

You can pay for your subscription either by credit cards or via PayPal. Cryptocurrency payments are not an option.

Ease of Use

For our Hotspot Shield VPN review, we tested Hotspot Shield on several accounts to see just how well it fares for the average user. Like other VPN services, Hotspot Shield lets you use BitTorrent and P2P file sharing on its network. It has an excellent split-tunneling feature, and with it, you can choose which traffic enters the VPN tunnel and which is on open networks. This is a perfect feature for video streaming or online banking platforms that may block traffic from VPN.

The Hotspot Shield Premium plan lets you connect up to five devices at the same time. This is a standard offering among VPNs, although some services are evolving beyond this limitation.

Anonymization

During our Hotspot Shield review, we found that Hotspot Shield doesn’t give users access to the anonymization network known as Tor. However, this isn’t a disadvantage or limitation as it may seem at first glance since you don’t really need a VPN service to gain access to Tor. We’ve also observed that with Hotspot Shield, you cannot have multihop connections. Multihop connections help you achieve enhanced security by routing your traffic through a second server. This service is also rarely needed, and we don’t consider the lack of it a significant disadvantage.

Installation

It took us about a minute to download and install the app. You can connect to a VPN with just one click or manually select a location from the long list of locations. On further review, Hotspot Shield turns out to be very easy to use; with simple controls and an even simpler outlay. Some users, however, prefer to customize their own connection settings. If you are among them, the lack of advanced options/ features may disappoint you.

Supported Platforms

Hotspot Shield VPN service works perfectly with the Windows platform Android, macOS, iOS, and many streaming devices/ platforms such as Amazon Fire TV Stick and Android TV. There are also configuration instructions on using routers with Hotspot and a command-line app for Linux.

Hotspot Shield Mac Review

So, we’ve established that Hotspot works for the Windows 10 OS almost as if designed specifically for it. But how does it fare on the macOS? On observation, it does exactly the same job, with a few bugs here and there, but nothing significant enough to constitute a problem. The user-friendly design is constant across the board, and the signature single switch to connect is also available.

Should the connection be severed or a server lost, the kill switch automatically disconnects the user, so there is no location leak.

User Interface

During our Hotspot Shield VPN review, we compared the user interface with other VPNs, observing that the Hotspot Shield client looked much more ‘comfortable’ and at home on the Windows 10 OS than other VPN apps. When you run the application, you’re greeted by a simplistic layout, with a dark blue window and highlights in cyan. It has a futuristic, modern vibe. On startup, the application welcomes you with a large switch asking you to ‘connect to VPN’. In the lower right corner, there is a menu that displays the server you will subsequently be connecting to.

hotspot shield review - user interface

Features

In this section of the Hotspot VPN review, we’ll break down all of its relevant features.

Server Selection

As mentioned earlier, the free account restricts you to US servers. Subscription accounts offer complete access to all servers in the 80+ countries Hotspot says it has servers in. Interestingly, where other VPNs ignore Africa and South America as server locations, Hotspot has four servers on African locations and several in South America. It also has servers in internet-repressive areas like China, Turkey, Vietnam, and Russia. With its 1,800+ servers, there are certainly a lot of options to choose from.

Many VPNs use virtual servers, but Hotspot declares it uses more hardware – physical servers – but doesn’t say much about virtual servers. You’d think AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield would review such a policy and be more transparent considering they are such a trustworthy service, but perhaps this one just skipped the management’s mind.

Speed

If you’re familiar with VPNs, you’ll know they have a nasty reputation for slowing internet connections. This is not the case with Hotspot Shield, as its trump card over other VPNs are its amazing internet speeds. Hotspot is one of the fastest VPNs in existence. We observed that it increased latency by 42.9% during our speed test, reducing download speeds by 31.3% and upload speeds by 60%. Fortunately, Hotspot maintains a great speed, even with farther-distanced locations, with speeds hitting 60 Mbps.

Security and Privacy

Our independent Anchor Hotspot Shield review has shown that Hotspot Shield uses the Catapult Hydra protocol, which gives faster speeds but doesn’t compromise on user security. IKEv2 is also available as a security protocol. There is OpenVPN with this service, however. Some might say this weakens privacy, but remember that the Catapult Hydra protocol is used by reputable names like McAfee, Bitdefender, and Telefonica.

However, Hotspot tends to log more user info than other VPNs. We’ve been assured that it can’t be traced back to the user, but an independent audit or tighter logging practices would be much appreciated.

Streaming Services

Our Hotspot Shield review wouldn’t be complete without discussing the streaming capabilities of this service since that is what most users of VPNs get them for. We focused more on Netflix during our testing, and we found that Hotspot is perfect for streaming on this platform and unblocking content. It’s also great for other streaming services like YouTube, iPlayer, and Disney+. It’s also P2P configured, so you’ll have no problems torrenting either. Take these results with a pinch of salt, though, as some users may experience successful streaming one day and find restrictions on the next.

Torrenting with Hotspot Shield

All of Hotspot Shield’s servers are supportive of P2P connections. This compatibility cuts across all devices, from Android to macOS clients. Some Hotspot Shield VPN reviews mention torrent tutorials for users not used to torrenting. We have reviewed them and found them quite useful, as torrenting can be tricky to navigate. Particular attention is paid to teaching users how to download torrents safely. The service doesn’t come with any torrent restrictions, so downloading torrents is a breeze, and it’s just like browsing regularly. This makes Hotspot Shield one of the best VPNs for torrenting.

As mentioned before, split tunneling helps users decide what type of data traffic goes through the secure networks and what goes outside. Unfortunately, Hotspot doesn’t support making Bitcoin payments anonymously.

VPN Proxy

Hotspot Shield VPN proxy will review and establish a secure tunnel around your connection. It does this by encrypting all of your data, thereby blocking all external threats. It’s handy if you want to connect to a public Wi-Fi. Once the service is on, no one will be able to monitor your activity, as your ISP is already blocked.

Hotspot Shield Chrome Extension

We tested out the Hotspot Shield extension for Chrome browser. Disappointingly, we observed that while it didn’t leak our real location and IP, there were several DNS leaks. The implication was that websites could be informed that we were using a VPN, and that’s not good news.

How Does HotSpot Shield Compare to Other VPN Services?

hotspot shield logo
  • Number of servers: 1,800+
  • Number of server countries: 80+
  • Maximum simultaneous connections: 5
  • Split tunneling: Yes
  • Supported protocols: Catapult Hydra, IKEv2
  • Kill switch: Yes
  • Ad blocking: No
  • Streaming services supported: Disney+, Prime Video, iPlayer, Netflix
Best price FREE
cyberghost vpn logo
  • Number of servers: 6.500 +
  • Number of server countries: 90
  • Maximum simultaneous connections: 7
  • Security: AES-256 encryption
  • Ad blockers: Yes
Best price $3.49/mo
NordVPN review
  • More than 5,000 servers. in more than 50 countries
  • No data cap
  • A maximum of six simultaneous connections
  • 256-bit AES encryption with 4096-bit DHE-RSA keys
  • Highly effective kill switch and ad blocking
  • Unblocks geo-restricted streaming for Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, HBO, Hulu, and Netflix.
Best price $4.89/mo

Hotspot Shield Review – Final Words

In this Hotspot Shield basic review, we covered the most important aspects of the VPN service, performed a DNS leak test, connection and speed tests, among other checks. Our general consensus after reviewing the results is that it’s a superb VPN that delivers on many of its promises. We especially like that it supports streaming, so users with this preference don’t have to look past this VPN to satisfy this need. Granted, it’s a little pricey, but with long-term subscriptions come 40% discounts that make it more affordable.

The unavailability of OpenVPN might be a deal-breaker for some. Still, the biggest issue we encountered during the Hotspot Shield free VPN proxy review revolves around how it monetizes services for free accounts. The lack of transparency isn’t something we can easily get over.

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Numerous server locations
  • Hefty services bundle
  • Easy to use
  • Very fast
  • Split tunneling by domain
  • Relatively expensive
  • WireGuard support is limited
  • No manual connections

FAQ

Is VPN use illegal?

While using a VPN on streaming services is a breach of their terms of use, it’s not illegal. However, any activities that were illegal without VPN use remain illegal with VPN.

Can Hotspot Shield be trusted?

Yes. Hotspot can be trusted and is safe to use. It uses 256-bit AES Perfect Forward Secrecy encryption, has a kill switch, and the Catapult Hydra protocol to ensure maximum security.

Does Hotspot Shield hide your IP?

Yes, it does. The moment you connect to one of the servers on any device, your IP address is instantly hidden. 

Does Hotspot Shield sell your data?

During our Hotspot Shield review, one important point was to check if user data was being collected for resale by Hotspot Shield. We found that the company had a complaint filed against them in 2017 for monitoring users, collecting their data, and selling it to advertisers. Hotspot has said it does collect data, but it doesn’t sell them. The reason for collection is to enforce company policies, according to Hotspot.

Is Hotspot Shield a virus?

No, it’s not. It’s a VPN service.

Is Hotspot Shield VPN safe?

Yes, it’s a reliable VPN service trusted by more than 650 million users worldwide.

hotspot shield logo
Best price FREE
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