NordVPN vs Hotspot Shield: which VPN is better?
Both NordVPN and Hotspot Shield are well-known among VPN enthusiasts. While NordVPN is a shining example of security done right, Hotspot Shield provides us with possibly the best speeds in the industry.
So, which provider is the best for your needs? In this NordVPN vs Hotspot Shield comparison, I’ll try to answer this question once and for all. Let’s compare the speed, features, security, and other important aspects of these VPN services.
NordVPN vs. Hotspot Shield
|🥇 Overall rank:||#1 out of #29||#22 out of #29|
|🖥️ Servers:||5400+ servers in 60 countries||1800+ servers in 80 countries|
|📖 No logs policy:||No logs||Keeps logs|
|💵 Pricing:||From $3.29/month||from $7.99/month|
|🔥 Coupons:||NordVPN coupon 68% OFF||Hotspot Shield coupon 40% OFF|
|🔒 VPN protocols:||OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec, WireGuard (NordLynx)||Catapult Hydra, IKEv2|
|🍿 Streaming services:||Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and more||Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube|
|🖥️ Platforms:||Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox||Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS, Chrome|
|📥 Simultaneous connections:||6||up to 5|
|💁🏻 Support:||Knowledge base, FAQs, email, 24/7 live chat||Knowledge base, FAQs, email, 24/7 live chat|
Speed performance: NordVPN vs Hotspot Shield
In most VPN comparisons, NordVPN is usually the winner in the speed section. However, this time, I encountered a couple of surprises - maybe because, just like NordVPN, Hotspot Shield offers a proprietary protocol that puts all of its efforts into speed.
So, which hand-crafted protocol is the faster one - NordLynx or Catapult Hydra? Let’s take a look.
- Baseline: 1 ms/300 Mbps download/300 Mbps upload
|Download average||190 Mbps||261 Mbps|
|Upload average||131 Mbps||50 Mbps|
Here we can see that Hotspot Shield's Hydra is taking the lead in the download speed department. In fact, the dropdowns in speed were sometimes as minimal as 2% - an incredible feat to achieve for a VPN.
Meanwhile, NordLynx’s download speeds are really great, but not as blazing fast as the ones of Catapult Hydra.
However, interestingly, Hydra’s upload speed left me wanting for more. It was much slower than the speed of NordLynx, which is a shame if you want a good VPN for gaming or hosting streams.
|Download average||215 Mbps||262 Mbps|
|Upload average||51 Mbps||45 Mbps|
Another tunneling protocol that NordVPN and Hotspot Shield share is IKEv2. Yet again, Hotspot Shield managed to provide us with better download speeds than NordVPN. On the other hand, Hotspot Shield’s upload speeds were a bit lackluster.
All in all, it's difficult to declare a clear winner in this category simply because of the discrepancy between the download and upload speeds. So, even though Hotspot Shield won Ookla’s Speedtest badge back in 2019, I declare a tie.
Netflix and streaming
It’s no secret that most people use a VPN for unblocking Netflix and other streaming platforms. After all, we need a bit of entertainment after a hard day of work.
So, which VPN service is better at providing said entertainment? Well, the table below shows that it’s NordVPN that will give you more stuff to watch on a cold winter’s evening.
|Amazon Prime Video||✅||✅|
You see, NordVPN is capable of unblocking virtually any streaming platform you throw at it, be it Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, or HBO Max. There are no buffering issues, and you are usually able to reach movie libraries from multiple countries, not only the US or the UK. It's important to mention that NordVPN is perfect for Netflix, as it unblocks 16 different libraries.
Now, about Hotspot Shield. It’s also a good VPN for streaming - in fact, it can unblock a few different platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, YouTube, and BBC iPlayer. However, the list ends here - I couldn’t reach the other platforms mentioned on the table (like DAZN) while the VPN was in use.
Also, NordVPN offers the SmartDNS feature that allows you to stream content even on devices that don’t support VPN connections.
So, in conclusion, NordVPN is a better tool for streaming.
Both NordVPN and Hotspot Shield are suitable choices for torrenting. However, if you torrent a lot, then I suggest picking NordVPN as your go-to service. Let me explain.
So, while Hotspot Shield allows torrenting on all of its servers, NordVPN is better for torrenting as it offers specialized servers, which are actually optimized for P2P connections. And there’s more - you can also connect to Onion over VPN servers, which are extremely secure.
Finally, NordVPN offers an integrated SOCKS5 proxy, which you can use with a variety of torrrenting clients.
It’s difficult to determine a winner in this section. On the one hand, NordVPN offers more features as a stand-alone VPN. On the other hand, Hotspot Shield comes with a few other programs, including a password manager and an antivirus suite. Therefore, I declare a tie.
Split tunneling is one of the features offered by both NordVPN and Hotspot Shield. And it’s a very useful one - it allows you to use the VPN connection on specific applications, making all the other traffic go unmasked. This way, you don’t need to constantly turn the VPN on and off.
So, in NordVPN’s case, this feature is very configurable. You can either include or exclude certain applications from the VPN connection on both Windows and Android.
When using Hotspot Shield, you’ll find something called SmartVPN - and this is nothing else than your usual split tunneling. Interestingly, the VPN allows you to choose not only apps but also websites, which is pretty convenient. However, the only option is exclusion, making this Windows and Android feature a bit limited.
Interestingly, some VPNs can protect you not only from snoopers, but also from malware. For this task, NordVPN implements a feature called CyberSec. It blocks malicious ads and websites, not letting your computer get infected in the first place.
Similarly, Hotspot Shield gives you a notification when you’re about to visit an infected website, thus preventhing threats like phishing scams or viruses.
Unlike Hotspot Shield, NordVPN offers a bunch of specialized servers that will help you customize your VPN connection even more. So, these are:
- Onion over VPN. These servers are extremely secure, as your connection also goes through the Tor network.
- Double VPN. Available with the Open VPN protocols, this option will connect you through two different servers at once.
- Obfuscated servers. These servers can be extremely useful in oppressive countries, as they make the VPN traffic seem like regular traffic, bypassing various restrictions.
- P2P servers. Optimized for P2P connections, these servers will allow you to torrent at really good speeds.
SmartDNS is a NordVPN feature that will allow you to stream Netflix and other platforms on devices that don’t support VPN connections - like gaming consoles or certain smart TVs. However, remember one thing - your connection won’t be encrypted, you’ll only be using a foreign IP address.
When buying the Premium version of Hotspot Shield, a VPN is not the only thing you’ll get. Here’s what you’ll receive:
- Aura antivirus. That’s right - the Premium package includes a full-fledged antivirus tool with real-time protection. However, keep in mind that it’s only compatible with Windows and macOS.
- 1Password. One of the best and safest password managers out there, 1Password will fill out online forms and passwords for you. It includes 1GB of secure document storage.
- Spam-call blocker (Robo Shield). This is a feature for iOS and Android devices that will tag calls as spam if they come from suspicious numbers.
NordVPN vs Hotspot Shield: which is more secure?
Security is possibly the most important aspect of a VPN, even if the only thing you care about is unblocking Netflix. Having your personal data leaked is no joke!
Encryption and tunneling protocols
As a standard, VPNs use the AES-256 cipher for encryption. This is also the case for NordVPN. However, Hotspot Shield opted for AES-128, a slightly less secure, but also a virtually uncrackable variant of AES encryption.
That is because using a slightly less complicated variation allows for better speeds - and Hotspot Shield VPN is all about being as fast as possible.
Now, when it comes to tunneling protocols, NordVPN gives you more choices than Hotspot Shield. You can pick among Open VPN TCP, OpenVPN UDP, IKEv2, and NordLynx. However, you’ll end up using NordLynx most of the time, which is a modified version of WireGuard. That’s because it delivers the best speeds and security.
In terms of Hotspot Shield, you’re left with only two choices: Catapult Hydra and IKEv2. The former is a proprietary tunneling protocol based on OpenSSL and optimized for speed.
When it comes to the jurisdiction of NordVPN vs Hotspot Shield, the former has a clear advantage here. That’s because NordVPN is based in Panama, a privacy-friendly country. On the other hand, Hotspot Shield is based in the US - one of the worst places in terms of privacy.
Also, Hotspot Shield keeps your approximate city-level location in order to suggest you the fastest servers available. This might not be optimal for most privacy-oriented users.
A kill switch is an extremely important feature of any VPN. That’s because it shuts down the internet connection when the VPN connection malfunctions. This prevents your real IP address from leaking out into the world.
During our tests, the kill switch of NordVPN functioned properly. It’s also worth mentioning that it is customizable - you can either choose to shut down the internet for the whole device or for specific apps only.
Hotspot Shield VPN also boasts a good kill switch - it passed our tests with flying colors. However, it’s only system-wide - you can’t select specific applications like in the case of NordVPN.
Plans & pricing
When comparing the pricing of NordVPN vs Hotspot Shield, it’s easy to see which one is cheaper. While both services use the same subscription model - the longer your commitment, the lower the monthly payment - NordVPN offers the lowest price of the two.
Of course, let’s not ignore Hotspot Shield’s free plan, too - this is something that NordVPN lacks. However, keep in mind that the free subscription is limited to 500 MB per month, which is enough only for occasional googling.
|Check Pricing||Check Pricing|
In a way, the higher price of Hotspot Shield is justified. That’s because you get not only a VPN, but also Aura antivirus, a spam-call blocker for smartphones, and the 1Password password manager.
However, there’s no way of getting the VPN only, which I find pretty inconvenient.
Keep in mind that both VPNs offer a money-back guarantee. NordVPN gives you 30 days to make up your mind about the service, while Hotspot Shield allows you to spend 45 days deciding whether to keep the service or not.
This is the category where Hotspot Shield VPN shines, as its country selection is outstanding - you can pick from more than 80 different countries to unblock the content you need.
|Middle East & Africa||4||7|
However, the server fleet of Hotspot Shield is much smaller than the one of NordVPN. Which means that NordVPN’s servers are less likely to be crowded.
Also, Hotspot Shield doesn’t offer specialized servers of any kind. Meanwhile, NordVPN spoils us with lots of different kinds of servers: Double VPN, P2P servers, obfuscated servers, and Onion over VPN.
It’s difficult to determine a winner in a situation like this. Thus, I declare a tie.
Platforms, interface and ease of use
|Supported OS||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS|
|Other software and devices||Kodi, Android TVs, Fire devices||Android TVs, Fire devices|
|Browser extensions||Chrome, Firefox||Chrome|
Even though the designers of NordVPN and Hotspot Shield took different approaches, both results look good. Let’s begin with NordVPN.
So, its Windows and macOS applications look very similar. They both have a map, which is a rare (though convenient) thing to see on a VPN application. If you’re a beginner, you won’t have any trouble using either of these NordVPN apps. However, things are totally different when it comes to the Linux version - you’ll use it with the help of the command line terminal, as there’s no graphical interface.
In this regard, Hotspot Shield is similar - it offers great and easy-to-use applications for Windows and macOS while giving no graphical interface for Linux users.
No matter whether you use an Android or iOS device, you’ll be satisfied with NordVPN’s mobile applications. However, despite the almost-identical design, there are some differences in features.
For example, the iOS app offers Dark Web monitoring. Also, it doesn’t allow you to disable the kill switch. In the meantime, the Android app has split tunneling, auto-connect options, and a configurable kill switch.
In the case of Hotspot Shield VPN, the mobile apps are not only identical to one another - they simply look like downsized copies of the desktop applications. Also, they are pretty feature-rich, even the iOS one.
There’s one huge difference between the customer support of Hotspot Shield and NordVPN: the live chat of Hotspot Shield is hidden behind a paywall. That’s right - you need to be a paid user to get any of that sweet human contact. Fortunately, free users can at least submit a ticket or read the troubleshooting guides.
Meanwhile, NordVPN allows any person to use their 24/7 live chat - you can write to them even if you don’t have a NordVPN account. Aside from that, you can also send an email or read through the FAQ section.
NordVPN vs Hotspot Shield – which one wins?
|Ease of use||✅||❌|
If you’re unsure about picking between NordVPN and Hotspot Shield, just take a look at the table above. Unless you really, really care about perfect download speed, then NordVPN is the tool to go.
NordVPN offers better security, unblocks more streaming platforms, and has lower prices. On the other hand, Hotspot Shield might appeal to you if you also want to get an antivirus and a password manager with the same subscription.
Is NordVPN better than Hotspot Shield?
Yes, most users will like NordVPN more. That’s because it’s cheaper, unblocks more streaming sites, and offers better customer support. However, some users might prefer Hotspot Shield thanks to the blazing fast download speeds.
Is Hotspot Shield faster than NordVPN?
Yes, Hotspot Shield offers better download speeds than NordVPN. Sometimes, the dropdown is as low as 2% from your original speed. However, NordVPN provides users with better upload speeds.
Is Hotspot Shield a strong VPN?
Yes, Hotspot Shield is a strong VPN solution. It offers amazing speeds, good security, and a huge list of countries to choose from. It also unblocks Netflix.