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Hotspot Shield VPN review


Hotspot Shield VPN provides high-quality services in 2024 and offers numerous benefits for its users. It’s useful for unblocking Netflix or multiple other streaming platforms and supports torrenting. Users can enjoy VPN’s free version and install it on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS devices or even get a dedicated browser extension.

However, Hotspot Shield VPN does lack transparency in terms of security and privacy and isn’t the best pick for privacy-oriented users as it’s located in one of the surveillance alliance countries – the US.

If you’re searching for a more privacy-friendly VPN service, we recommend looking into more trustworthy options, such as NordVPN.

Best alternative to Hotspot Shield VPN
NordVPN is one of the best VPNs on the market, offering blazing-fast speeds, unbreakable encryption, the best streaming experience, and advanced security features.
cybernews® score
4.9 /5

Interested to find out more about Hotspot Shield VPN? Continue reading as this comprehensive Hotspot Shield VPN review will look over speed tests, pricing plans, security, and everything else that this service has to offer.

NordVPNHotspot Shield
⭐ Rating:
4.9
3.5
🥇 Overall rank:#1 out of #42#27 out of #42
🖥️ Servers:6,400 + servers in 111 countries3,200 + servers in 85 countries
📖 No logs policy:No logsKeeps logs
💵 Price:From $3.39/monthFrom $2.99/month
🔥 Coupons:NordVPN coupon 72% OFFHotspot Shield coupon 77% OFF
🔒 VPN protocols:OpenVPN, WireGuard (NordLynx)Hydra, IKEv2, Wireguard
🍿 Streaming services:Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and moreNetflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Amazon, Hulu, and more
🖥️ Platforms:Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOSWindows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and Chrome
📥 Simultaneous connections:10Up to 10
💁🏻 Support:Knowledge base, FAQs, email, 24/7 live chatKnowledge base, FAQs, email, 24/7 live chat
Best alternatives:

Hotspot Shield pros & cons

Visit Hotspot Shield to learn more about the features

Hotspot Shield review: key takeaways

Hotspot Shield stands out in the 2024 VPN market with its strong security features and easy-to-use interface. It's designed for beginners and experienced users, offering powerful protection like advanced encryption and anti-phishing. Hotspot Shield has a large network of servers, 3200 in over 85 countries, providing fast and reliable connections for streaming, browsing, and more.

Here's a brief overview of our Hotspot Shield review and the main points:

  • Security and privacy. Hotspot Shield ensures robust security with 128-bit AES encryption as its standard encryption type. It also supports 256-bit AES encryption and has a reliable kill switch. Hotspot Shield maintains a strict no-logs policy to protect user privacy. Additionally, it offers malware protection, utilising a database of 3.5 million known and suspected web domains to defend users against malware, phishing sites, infected sites, and spam.
  • Servers and locations. With over 3200 servers in over 85 countries, Hotspot Shield provides extensive global coverage, supporting consistent performance and accessibility worldwide.
  • Pricing. Hotspot Shield starts at a competitive price of $2.99/month for up to 10 simultaneous connections. A free version is also available, which is useful for basic protection but includes ads and supports only one device. The service provides a generous 45-day money-back guarantee on premium plans, letting users try it risk-free.
  • Speed performance. Generally, Hotspot Shield offers fast connection speeds suitable for streaming, gaming, and extensive downloading activities. It also features specific modes optimized for streaming and gaming.
  • Ease of use and apps. The applications are straightforward and easy to navigate, making Hotspot Shield accessible for users of all experience levels.
  • Streaming and torrenting. Hotspot Shield efficiently unblocks popular streaming platforms and supports secure P2P connections, ideal for users interested in entertainment and content sharing.
  • Customer support. Hotspot Shield service provides comprehensive support through 24/7 live chat and email.

Is Hotspot Shield safe?

Yes, Hotspot Shield is legitimate because of its safe Hydra tunnelling protocol and 256-bit AES encryption. The AES-256 encryption used by the provider scrambles your online data, providing high-level protection trusted by security experts globally.

Hotspot Shield, now part of Aura, is a solid choice. It's been ranked as the fastest and most secure VPN by independent tests, offering reliable online privacy and security.

Encryption128-bit AES and 256-bit AES
Tunneling protocolsWireguard, Hydra, IKEv2
Kill switch✅Yes
LoggingKeeps some user's data

Encryption

Hotspot Shield uses advanced encryption technology to secure your online activities, employing the standard many top VPNs use. It protects your connection with TLS 1.2 and strong 2048-bit RSA certificates for authentication, ensuring robust security. Each session generates new encryption keys and deletes them afterward, enhancing privacy.

The service defaults to 128-bit AES encryption, which is very secure and widely used by governments and financial institutions. It would take billions of years to crack with current technology, offering a good balance of security and speed. While 256-bit AES is available for even greater security, 128-bit is sufficient for most users, providing reliable protection for your internet use.

Tunneling protocols

Hotspot Shield primarily utilises Hydra's proprietary protocol to optimise speed and security. Hydra stands out by being 2.4 times faster than the traditional OpenVPN protocol, especially effective over long distances. Its design mimics regular encrypted web traffic, making it challenging to detect and block.

In addition to Hydra, Hotspot Shield offers other protocol options:

  • IPsec (IKEv2) is known for its high security and fast speeds, but easier to block.
  • WireGuard, available for Android and Mac, this newer protocol offers a minimalistic approach to fast and secure connections.

Hotspot Shield's protocols are highly regarded for their speed and security, making them a reliable choice for VPN users. The service lets you choose the best protocol (Hydra, IKEv2, or WireGuard) for your needs, ensuring optimal performance and protection.

Kill switch

Hotspot Shield has a kill switch security feature to stop all your traffic if you suddenly disconnect from a VPN server due to poor internet connection. It isn't toggled on by default, so you'll have to remember to turn it on.

Hotspot shield kill switch

During my tests, the kill switch worked well when I killed the VPN connection process. The app showed that the kill switch is engaged and would start to reconnect.

When the app's background process was killed, the app would detect that there is an issue. Then it initiated a restart, resolving your connection. So, at no point was my IP exposed during the test.

Logging

Hotspot Shield's location is one of the worst places on the planet for a service that hinges on privacy. The United States is a founding member of the Five Eyes alliance. This, along with the country's powerful intelligence agencies make it suboptimal for VPNs that cater to the most privacy-minded users due to their excessive logging.

The VPN does promise no logs to your activity, but there are exceptions when using the free version. Since the free app has ads, they reserve the right to show your approximate city-level location. It also includes your device's advertising ID, IMEI, MAC address, and even wireless carrier. In short, if you value your privacy, you shouldn't touch their free client.

Sadly, their paid version isn't without concerns, either. They state that they take measures to delete your IP address right after your session ends. However, if they are required by law to keep this information for a longer period, they will comply. So, the principle of how this VPN operates is that purging an IP address seems to be a privilege, which can be revoked if the need arises.

The fact that the service isn't accepting anonymous payments makes it only worse. So, if you're thinking that paying with cryptocurrencies could act as a necessary veil of shadow, this isn't the case.

Security and privacy audits

Hotspot Shield, now part of cybersecurity company Aura, has significantly improved its privacy practices following past challenges, such as the 2017 data retention controversy. The company has since updated its policies and continues to release annual transparency reports.

An independent test by AV-Test ranked Hotspot Shield as the fastest and most secure among leading VPNs, excelling in speed and security with no detected leaks. The backbone of its performance is the proprietary Hydra protocol, known for superior speed and security, widely adopted by major global security and telecommunications companies.

These developments affirm Hotspot Shield's commitment to providing a secure and reliable VPN service, making it a trusted choice for users concerned about online privacy.

How much does Hotspot Shield cost?

Hotspot Shield offers four different plans: basic (free) and three premium plans with the option to sign up for a month, 1-year, or 3-years. All premium plans come with an impressive 45-day money–back guarantee to test HotspotShield before committing.

PlanPrice
Basic$0.00
1-month plan$12.99
1-year plan$7.99/month
3-year plan$2.99/month

The shortest subscription duration is 1 month. It's also the most expensive and will cost you $12.99 for Premium and includes a 45-day money-back guarantee.

The second option is a 1 year plan. Similarly, the price will be $7.99/month. Finally, Hotspot Shield includes a 3-year plan, which is the cheapest and only costs you $2.99/month. Therefore, you get the most bang for the buck choosing the plan, as it includes everything you need for versatile security and will cost you cheaper than 1-month or 1-year plans.

Another drawback is that the service accepts only credit cards and PayPal. There are no options to pay with cryptocurrencies, so it's another hit for your anonymity.

Can you get a Hotspot Shield VPN for free?

Yes, Hotspot Shield has a free version, so you can try the service without adding payment information. With it, you'll be able to connect to several US servers.

Although, this comes with strict restrictions. You'll be capped at 500MB per day, one connection, and your speed will be throttled down to 2 Mbps. So, you won't be able to take advantage of the amazing speeds with the Free version.

The final issue is that this version has ads and collects usage logs. This isn't impressive, considering that other VPNs have free versions that are more respectful of your privacy.

Speed performance: Is Hotspot Shield fast?

To evaluate Hotspot Shield's speed and performance, we conducted tests using a Lenovo ThinkPad T14s Gen2 device with an AMD Ryzen 5 PRO 5650U processor, 16 GB RAM, and a 256 GB SSD, running Windows 11 Pro. We monitored speed retention across various server locations, including the USA, UK, Germany, Japan, and Australia.

Hotspot Shield VPN offers good speed performance, though results can be inconsistent across different protocols. Remember, internet speeds can change due to the time of day, location, internet provider, and the VPN server you use.

  • Baseline: 412 Mbps download/268 Mbps upload
LocationWireGuard HydraIKEv2
US (NY) download speed/upload speed291 Mbps/ 169 Mbps286 Mbps/ 38 Mbps203 Mbps/ 136 Mbps
UK download speed/upload speed369 Mbps/ 130Mbps226 Mbps/ 94 Mbps189 Mbps/ 229 Mbps
Germany download speed/upload speed357 Mbps/ 214 Mbps308 Mbps/ 118 Mbps272 Mbps/ 207 Mbps
Japan download speed/upload speed30 Mbps/ 73 Mbps286 Mbps/14 Mbps132 Mbps/ 61 Mbps
Australia download speed/upload speed270 Mbps /28 Mbps247 Mbps/ 14 Mbps185 Mbps/ 31 Mbps

We selected five server locations (Australia, the UK, Germany, Japan, and the USA) to assess Hotspot Shield’s performance across different continents. During our testing, Japan showed the lowest speed retention. Meanwhile, the USA (New York) recorded the highest speeds, while Germany also showed strong performance.

The Catapult Hydra protocol is a solid choice for users seeking reliability with decent speeds. However, if top speeds are your main concern, the WireGuard protocol generally provides the best speed retention despite some fluctuations in Japan.

Hotspot servers and locations

According to their page, Hotspot Shield now has around 3200 servers in over 85 countries and 35+ cities. Although, not all of their servers are physical – some of them are situated in a virtual location.

This means they aren’t physically located in the indicated countries. Instead, they’re just configured to appear as such for anti-geo-blocking purposes.

Their fleet isn't the biggest, but it does cover quite a lot of countries. Here's how their network breaks down:

RegionsNumber of countries
Americas~ 16 countries
Europe~ 48 countries
Asia Pacific~ 28 countries
Middle East and Africa~ 7 countries
HotspotShield-windows-server-locations

If you're planning to connect to Europe, Asia Pacific, or the Americas you'll have lots of server locations to choose from.

Hotspot Shield extra features

Apart from the great speed and strong security, Hotspot Shield offers some extra features for its users. Even though additional benefits significantly improve VPN’s overall user experience, you should keep in mind that some of them are only available with premium subscription plans.

💿 VPN server network:3200 + servers in 85 countries
🛡️Tunneling protocols:Wireguard, Hydra, IKEv2
👁️ Data collection policy:Collects some user's data
🔒Online protection:128-bit AES and 256-bit AES encryption, kill switch, no-logs, Smart VPN
💻 Maximum connections:Up to 10
✉️ Customer support:Email and live chat
💰Money-back guarantee:45 days
🆓 Free version:Yes
⚙️ IP addresses:Shared
💡Advanced features:SmartVPN, Malware protection, Automatic Wi-Fi security

SmartVPN

Many VPN providers have quite similar features, but they call them differently. SmartVPN is just your good-old split tunneling. So, you can exclude some apps or webpages from the VPN tunnel, making them connect directly.

Hotspot shield smartvpn screenshot

Sadly, the only customization option for this feature is pausing – you can temporarily suspend the tunnel. It also isn't possible to use split tunneling in inverse mode, so you won't be able to use the VPN only with a select handful of apps. So, take note if you're planning to use a VPN with only some key apps or websites.

The feature is only reserved for Windows and Android users (the latter have a strange implementation of it). So, if you're using iOS or macOS, you won't find it on your app.

Malware protection

Hotspot Shield has a malware protection feature that uses a large list of over 3.5 million websites known for harmful content. When you're online, it checks the sites you visit against this list. If it recognises a site as dangerous, it blocks it to protect you from malware or scams. This feature works automatically, so you don’t have to do anything to stay protected while browsing.

Automatic Wi-Fi security

Hotspot Shield has an automatic Wi-Fi security feature that encrypts your data when you connect to a new Wi-Fi network, keeping your online activities safe from potential snooping, especially when using public Wi-Fi. This protection automatically secures you without requiring any additional action on your part.

Patented Hydra protocol

Hotspot Shield's patented Hydra protocol enhances both speed and security for its VPN users. Hotspot Shield builds its proprietary Hydra protocol on the reliable TLS protocol, enhancing data transmission over long distances. The Hydra protocol reduces delays and increases the stability of your internet connection, which is particularly beneficial when connecting to distant servers. As a result, you experience smoother streaming, quicker downloads, and more reliable browsing.

Additionally, Hydra includes strong encryption to keep your data safe as it travels across the internet. These features make Hydra an excellent choice for anyone who values fast and secure online activities, especially when accessing content from distant locations.

Is Hotspot Shield good for streaming?

Yes, Hotspot Shield is a great VPN to help you access geo-blocked content on major streaming platforms. It has over 3200 servers across more than 85 different countries. So, you can pick any of the streaming servers to watch movies or TV shows you want, despite their location-based restrictions.

PlatformStatus
Netflix✅ Yes
BBC iPlayer✅ Yes
YouTube✅ Yes
Hulu✅ Yes
Amazon✅ Yes
All 4✅ Yes

For example, we had no issues with unblocking the US Netflix library. During the test, the newest movies and TV series loaded instantly with no image quality loss. The overall experience watching Netflix was so smooth that it would be pretty hard for anyone to tell whether one’s using a VPN at all.

Hotspot Shield VPN also easily unblocked YouTube, so you can access trending videos from all around the world. Just keep in mind that after entering your password, Google will ask to confirm your identity – the service sometimes tends to get a bit sensitive to unfamiliar IPs.

However, we stumbled upon some issues when accessing other streaming platforms. It did unblock BBC iPlayer, but there was some buffering at the beginning. Otherwise, the streaming quality was good, and we didn't experience any stutters.

Additionally, Hotspot Shield can unblock other popular streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and All 4, expanding your access to a wide range of content across these platforms.

Hotspot Shield struggles with services like DAZN and TV Tokyo due to their strict VPN blocking measures. DAZN often blocks VPN users from accessing sports content outside their home regions, while TV Tokyo's geo-restrictions make it tough for VPNs like Hotspot Shield to bypass them consistently.

Is Hotspot Shield good for torrenting?

Yes, Hotspot Shield VPN can be used for torrenting as it doesn’t blacklist P2P connections. Even though there are no dedicated servers strictly for torrenting, its 3200+ servers give a relatively large number of options to find a fast and secure connection for P2P downloads.

We’ve tested the download speed and it got up to 2.3MB/s (18mbps). Note that there are multiple factors that influence how fast you can download various files, like the number and location of seeds. Thus, while the speed test score is not as impressive as one might expect, we may have just been unlucky.

Hotspot Shield interface and ease of use

Hotspot Shield VPN works smoothly on all your devices, whether you're using a computer or smartphone. It's easy to set up on Windows, macOS, and Linux, as well as iOS and Android. There's even a handy Chrome extension for quick browser access. The VPN provides an intuitive and user-friendly experience across all platforms, although it tailors some specific features to work best on certain operating systems.

PlatformExperience
WindowsProvides a fast, responsive experience with an informative interface that displays connection speeds, server loads, and data usage.
macOSOffers 'Bypass' and 'Route VPN' features for custom VPN control but lacks the traditional split tunnelling flexibility found on other platforms.
LinuxLacks advanced features like a kill switch or auto-connect, which may feel limiting compared to the fuller functionalities on Windows or macOS.
MobileMobile apps provide a seamless experience with a clean design and premium features, ensuring effortless VPN management and reliable privacy protection for Android and iOS users.
BrowserBrowser extensions for Chrome and Firefox offer familiar proxy functionality with site protection control, despite limited server options.

Hotspot Shield desktop versions

Both Windows and macOS apps have the same sleek design. The colors and the positioning of the UI elements make the client look modern and easy on the eyes. I didn't notice that animations would stutter. Their UX team did a great job.

Hotspot shield windows ui

Using Hotspot Shield on Windows and macOS feels incredibly fast; server connections happen almost instantly. The interface nicely displays useful information like connection speeds, server load, new IP address, and data usage graph.

However, using Hotspot Shield feels a bit different depending on your operating system. On macOS, instead of the usual split tunneling options, you get features called 'Bypass' and 'Route VPN.' These let you easily choose which apps or websites always use the VPN or skip it, giving you customised control over your internet connection. However, this setup might be a bit disappointing for those who prefer traditional split tunneling as it doesn't offer the same flexibility found on other platforms.

Hotspot Shield macos ui options

Using Hotspot Shield on Linux, you might notice it lacks some advanced features like a kill switch or auto-connect, which are common in versions for other operating systems. This might feel limiting, especially if you're accustomed to the more comprehensive VPN functionalities available on Windows or macOS.

Hotspot Shield mobile apps

The Hotspot Shield apps for Android and iOS closely mirror the desktop version, tailored nicely for mobile use. The clean and user-friendly design makes it easy for beginners to navigate.

The iOS version of Hotspot Shield offers a range of premium features, making it a strong choice even on a platform like iOS, which often has fewer options than Android. This range of features ensures a smooth and consistent experience across all devices, making it easy for iOS users to manage their VPN settings and reliably secure their privacy.

Hotspot shield android ui

Using Hotspot Shield on Android provides a lot of control with features like Smart VPN for specific apps and different connection protocols, including their fast Hydra option. However, the many settings can be a bit much for new users, and having to disconnect manually sometimes can be a hassle. Overall, it's a powerful app if you're okay with adjusting a few settings to get it right.

Hotspot Shield browser extensions

If you're a frequent user of Proxy add-ons, you'll feel right at home with Hotspot Shield's Chrome and Firefox browser extensions. Although it uses an unspecified tunneling protocol, the add-on as a whole gives you a lot of control over what you want to block.

Hotspot shield addon

The most impressive feature was the ability to select specific websites that will always be protected by the proxy, even if the proxy connection is not turned on. It also allows you to add websites that you don't want to go through the proxy. Though I was disappointed by the server selection - you can only choose from 9 different countries.

Customer support

Like any other VPN service on the market, Hotspot Shield has a customer support website, where you can find various guides and answers to most FAQs. So, this should be your first step when trying to resolve an issue. Incidentally, it's also the only customer support option for free users. While I'm not a fan of paywalls, many services with free versions restrict the customer service.

Hotspot Shield
24/7 live chat
✅Yes
Email✅Yes
Phone support
❌No
Guides or articles✅Yes
FAQs✅Yes

So, to access their live chat, you'll need a paid account. Suppose your query proves to be too difficult for a customer support agent to solve on the spot. In that case, it will be converted to a ticket, and you'll get a reply via mail.

I didn't experience any issues with the apps, so I contacted them to ask additional questions about their service. The queue times were short, and the customer support agent did their best to help me out, although, as it turned out, he wasn't too proficient in Linux.

Is Hotspot Shield any good and worth getting?

Hotspot Shield is known for its strong performance, primarily due to its proprietary Hydra protocol, which enhances both speed and security. This makes it highly effective for bandwidth-intensive activities like streaming Netflix and torrenting. The Premium subscription also offers additional products and access to a wide global network of servers.

However, Hotspot Shield may not be the best choice for users with stringent privacy requirements due to its US jurisdiction and the associated privacy implications. It also lacks anonymous payment options and could improve its transparency regarding security and privacy practices. Furthermore, the use of virtual locations might concern those seeking a more transparent operation.

Overall, while Hotspot Shield excels in entertainment and general usage, it may not be suitable for those requiring the highest levels of privacy, such as political activists.


More on VPN providers from Cybernews:

NordVPN vs. Hotspot Shield VPN: how do these VPN services compare?
VyprVPN review: great performance for a good price
PrivateVPN review: read all about this service pros and cons


FAQ

Comments

I love plants
prefix 3 years ago
I was thinking about the free Hotspot vpn pc version but now I started doubting whether I can trust this service to be secure. Of course, there’s nothing on them YET but it seems unclear. However, the vpn itself sounds promising with their amazing speed.
good
prefix 3 years ago
Recently I’ve read quite a few Hotspot vpn reviews. Coming across this one, I love that you found the time to write about the whole premium suite (1password, hiya and aura antivirus). I do have a question about hiya, does it work outside of US too? Seems like such a useful tool, especially for someone with a little bit of anxiety (every time I have to pick up a call from an unknown number I usually don’t).
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 3 years ago
Yes, Hiya works outside of the US. To make sure that your country is covered, you should check their customer support page.
Spencer
prefix 3 years ago
Hi! I wonder would you say it’s enough to just use hotspot vpn chrome extension? Do I need anything else for safe web browsing and maybe occasional streaming here and there? Probably doesn’t work with torrents. right? Thanks for your hellp! Just trying to understand everything a little bit more;)
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 3 years ago
The Chrome extension will cover only your browser traffic. So, it will work for streaming (assuming you’re using a browser and not a separate app). However, it’d doubtful that it would work for torrenting. Usually, torrenting clients are apps, and those fall outside the browser’s coverage.
MaD X
prefix 3 years ago
i’m a bit dissapointed to hear about the mobile hotspot vpn not having split tunneling option on mac devices, would you help me find out which app has?
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 3 years ago
As I’ve mentioned in the review, currently, Smart VPN is only available to Windows and Android users.
KingSon
prefix 3 years ago
How does hotspot shield vpn subscription price compares to other vpn providers? I assume it’s one of the most expensive ones.
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 3 years ago
I’d say that Hotspot Shield has a pretty good price. It certainly isn’t on the expensive side. Though, other services offer more features for a lower price.
chandler
prefix 3 years ago
is there any way to find out if vpn is keeping logs? Because why would I even bother paying for stuff if I can be tracked anyways. not sure if I can trust that any vpn service can truly offer privacy
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 3 years ago
You can familiarize yourself with their privacy policy and check the lines that explain what is being done with your data.
Don’t stop there, if there are any privacy policy audit reports, you can probably find them available online. Check whether the auditing agency found anything suspicious.
Marion
prefix 3 years ago
Interesting review! What I just can’t comprehend is how can hostpot vpn allow to control browser extensions like you can turn off cookie or tracker blockers. What would they even track if you’re using vpn or proxy if you choose to enable tracking? Why is this feature even available? Your help would be appreciated!
Justinas Mazūra
prefix 3 years ago
A VPN just hides your IP address, but a great deal of web trackers targeted at your browser still remains. Hotspot Shield allows you to block them altogether or feed them fake data designed to give you better anonymity when surfing the web.
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