• Number of servers: 8.5/10
  • Speed: 10/10
  • Pricing: 9/10
  • Ease of Use: 10/10
  • Reliability and support: 10/10

minimum price:

Free Plan

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The Most Comprehensive Hotspot Shield Review for 2021

The Most Comprehensive Hotspot Shield Review for 2021

minimum price:

Free Plan

Visit Website
  • Number of servers: 8.5/10
  • Speed: 10/10
  • Pricing: 9/10
  • Ease of Use: 10/10
  • Reliability and support: 10/10

works on:

Windows Windows
Mac OS Mac OS
Linux Linux
Chrome Chrome
Firefox Firefox
Android Android
Android TV Android TV
Apple Apple

Usability

STRENGTHS

  • One of the fastest VPN services
  • Top-notch security
  • 24/7 live chat
  • 45-day money-back guarantee
  • Works with Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, and BBC iPlayer
  • Easy to use

WEAKNESSES

  • Pricey, especially monthly plans
  • Only five connections at a time
  • Privacy concerns

Counting over 650 million downloads, Hotspot Shield is one of the most popular VPNs around. 

It’s straightforward to use and provides ultra-fast speeds, thanks to its one-of-a-kind Catapult Hydra protocol. And with more than 1,800 servers in over 80 countries around the world, it’s definitely a service worth considering. 

So, is it all great news? Or are there any serious drawbacks to this VPN? 

Read our detailed Hotspot Shield review to find out.

Speed

There’s a little bit of give and take with all VPNs. You get anonymity but lose between 30% and 50% of your internet speed. 

Hotspot Shield proclaims itself the “world’s fastest VPN.” We set out to discover if this claim is supported. 

We began with local UK servers. With a starting connection of 200Mbps, the Hotspot Shield download speed decreased to 174Mbps, while the upload speed was 190Mbps. As for latency, it went up to 13ms. These results are excellent, even for short-distance servers. 

Hotspot Shield’s performance was outstanding on international servers too. Using one of the servers in Australia, our connection clocked in at 120Mbps for downloads and 35Mbps for uploads, which is impressive considering the distance. 

What’s more, one of the servers in the US gave us a 185Mbps download speed and a 60Mbps upload speed, while another US one reached 140Mbps and 130Mpbs for download and upload, respectively.

So is Hotspot Shield fast? Speed tests say yes!

The connection is also stable, with download and upload speeds fluctuating very little throughout all tests.

One of the reasons for Hotspot Shield’s impressive performance is the use of the company’s in-house protocol called Catapult Hydra.

To sum up, the Hotspot Shield app did an outstanding job in our speed tests, so it’s only fitting that it ranks among the fastest VPN providers on the market, even when compared to market leaders such as ExpressVPN. 

Security and Privacy

Some users have raised concerns about Hotspot Shield’s privacy policy and data sharing. Is this VPN safe? Let’s explore.

Encryption

Hotspot Shield relies on 256-bit AES encryption and says it uses military-grade security features. 

It also uses perfect forward secrecy, which changes your encryption key every new session, keeping past sessions hidden even if the key is compromised. 

Jurisdiction and Logging Policy

Anchorfree Hotspot Shield VPN is incorporated in the US and thus falls under the jurisdiction of 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances.

The company’s transparency report states that government agencies from the US and abroad constantly ask it to identify users based on IP addresses associated with Hotspot Shield’s VPN servers. 

What about Hotspot Shield’s logging policy?

The provider claims that it doesn’t keep logs of its users’ online activities that could be used to identify them. But some still express concerns about the company’s privacy policy, which states that it logs the following information:

  • Domains accessed by users, but these are collected on a monthly and anonymous basis
  • Real IP addresses to protect against fraud
  • Duration of VPN sessions and bandwidth used
  • Device hashes

According to Hotspot Shield’s privacy policy, after you disconnect from the VPN, it deletes your IP address and doesn’t log the browsing data.

Although it is good to hear that none of the logged information can be used to connect your account to any of the VPN browsing activity, there’s no confirmation of these privacy promises. Unlike competitors such as ExpressVPN, Hotspot Shield hasn’t been through any form of public privacy or security audit, so we’ll have to take its word for it.

We should note that if you’re using the Hotspot Shield free VPN version, the company stores data that it may share with third-party advertisers. This includes the following information:

  • Your unique advertising ID
  • Your location
  • Mobile ID
  • MAC address
  • Wireless carriers

Security Protocols

The company used to rely on OpenVPN and standard IPSec protocols, but after facing performance and latency issues, it created the Catapult Hydra.

This protocol uses different algorithms to establish the VPN tunnel between the computer and the VPN server. Some of the benefits of the Catapult Hydra include:

  • Faster connection to VPN servers
  • Less data transfer inside the tunnel
  • Multiple channels so data can travel faster and more securely
  • 2.4x faster over long distances than OpenVPN

The Hydra might be faster, but there are some issues, the major one being lack of transparency. 

Protocols like OpenVPN are open source, meaning that anyone, including independent audits, can look at the code and discover potential issues, which is not the case with Catapult Hydra. That’s why some Hotspot Shield reviews express a lack of trust for the company’s proprietary protocols. 

Kill Switch

Anchorfree HotspotShield provides a kill switch feature for Windows and Android users only, which may be disappointing for Mac and iPhone users. 

DNS Leaks

The company claims that the software encrypts the DNS requests, which prevents leaks. Plus, Hotspot Shield did not leak data in our tests, so you can rest assured that your data is safe with this provider.

Personal DNS Servers

DNS servers are an integral part of internet browsing. Specifically, when you type a domain name into the web browser, the server instantly looks up the corresponding IP address to redirect you to the site.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any Hotspot Shield DNS servers. The company uses third-party providers.

Split Tunnelling

If you’re searching for a VPN that offers split tunnelling, Hotspot Shield is not the best option for you—this provider doesn’t have this feature.

It does offer SmartVPN, which works in a similar way, i.e., it lets the user choose which apps can bypass the VPN tunnel. But this feature is only available on Windows and Android. 

It’s actually not easy to find VPNs that support iOS and macOS split tunnelling, even with widely popular providers like CyberGhost, because the latest versions of Apple operating systems don’t support this feature.

Servers and Server Locations

You can browse the internet privately and securely, with all your sensitive data protected, by connecting to one of the 1,800+ Hotspot Shield VPN servers.

Anchorfree Hotspot Shield has server locations in over 80 countries and more than 35 cities worldwide. In the UK, the company has VPN servers in two cities.

Compared to competitors like ExpressVPN and NordVPN, Hotspot Shield is no match in terms of the number of servers (NordVPN has over 5,000 and ExpressVPN has more than 3,000). But Hotspot Shield’s network is more than sufficient to give users a decent connection anywhere in the world. 

We have to point out that for all Hotspot Shield free VPN users, the only available servers are in the US.

Hotspot Shield’s Primary Uses

Hotspot Shield can be used for any of the purposes most commonly associated with VPNs.

Streaming

Hotspot Shield successfully unblocks Netflix libraries from several countries, including the always-in-demand US Netflix, as well as content from the UK, Netherlands, and other countries. 

You can also watch almost all major streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, HBO, and others, but keep in mind that these are not available for Hotspot Shield free VPN.

This VPN also unblocks BBC iPlayer, Sky Sports, and now even supports Kodi configuration.

Torrenting

While torrenting and file-sharing are becoming riskier because of increased online surveillance, some VPNs can encrypt P2P traffic. Luckily, Hotspot Shield is one of those. 

So if you’re asking yourself, is Hotspot Shield good for torrenting, the answer is yes. This VPN allows torrenting on all devices and servers with excellent upload and download speeds. Plus, there’s no limit on bandwidth, so you can use the service to your heart’s content.

Gaming

Hotspot Shield can maximize your gaming experience in different ways, such as lowering latency, protecting game data by encrypting it, preventing bandwidth throttling, and making your connection stable.

While Hotspot Shield free VPN is suitable for many activities, the paid version works incredibly well as a gaming VPN. Using its own Catapult Hydra protocol, Hotspot Shield has no data limits and can deliver twice the speed of almost any other VPN provider, providing practically lag-free gaming.

Unfortunately, Hotspot Shield does not currently support gaming consoles like Nintendo, Playstation, Xbox, and others. However, you can connect them through additional inexpensive travel routers that support this VPN or opt for a different provider, such as Surfshark or NordVPN. 

Supported Platforms

When we say supported platforms, we refer to the devices, browsers, and operating systems supported by a VPN provider. 

Desktop Clients

Hotspot Shield is compatible with a wide range of desktop operating systems, including macOS, Windows, and Linux. All desktop clients come with several perks, such as an automatic kill switch and the SmartVPN feature.

Hotspot Shield for Windows supports all laptops and desktops with Windows 7 or higher. 

Browser Extensions

The company offers a Hotspot Shield extension for both Chrome and Firefox browsers.

Both extensions offer a ton of features. Hotspot Shield for Chrome comes with ad blockers, malware, and WebRTC blockers. It also includes Auto-protect and Bypass lists, which allow you to add websites to be instantly connected to or bypassed through your regular connection, depending on which list you put them on.

Mobile Apps

Users can download Hotspot Shield for Android devices, like tablets, phones, and Android TVs, running on at least Android OS 5.0.

Plus, you can get Hot spot Shield for mobile devices that use iOS 11 or a more recent version.

Both of the apps give you the basic functions of the VPN, including the ability to link up to five devices, military-grade encryption, and the use of the company’s own Catapult Hydra protocol. The iOS and the Android app are easy to use, although we should note that the latter lacks a kill switch and the auto option connecting you to the server closest to you.

But at the time of writing, there are several unsupported devices, including Kindle tablets, Windows phones, SmartTVs that don’t use Android, and gaming consoles like Xbox, Nintendo, Playstation, etc.

Tor Compatibility

Hotspot Shield is not compatible with the Tor browser. The company believes there’s no need for you to use the Tor browser and a VPN at the same time, saying it slows down your connection and might leave your data exposed. 

For that reason, Hotspot Shield markets itself as an alternative to the Tor Browser, giving you a fast connection to the web that’s 100% private and anonymous. If a VPN connection to Tor is among your priorities, you may want to look at a different provider, such as Surfshark.

Hotspot Shield Price Plans

Hotspot Shield has two plans to choose from as well as a free version. 

Unsurprisingly, the latter comes with certain limitations. Some of the restrictions of the Hotspot Shield free download include: 

  • Only one simultaneous connection 
  • 500MB of bandwidth daily 
  • Only US VPN servers available

Compared to the free version of TunnelBear, which is limited to 500MB monthly, the Hotspot Shield free VPN subscription looks a lot more generous. But the generosity ends here because the offered connection speed of 2Mbps is barely workable.

Below is the pricing for the two paid packages if you purchase a yearly subscription:

Hotspot Shield Premium account £6.99/month; £83.88/year
Hotspot Shield Premium Family £10.49/month; £125.88/year

The same plans are available on a monthly basis:

Hotspot Shield Premium £10.99/month
Hotspot Shield Premium Family £16.99/month

Purchasing the yearly Premium package will save you 38%, and you’ll get Hotspot Shield malware and phishing protection, spam-call blocker, and password management. With this plan, you also get a connection speed of up to 1Gbps and no data caps.

Hotspot Shield also provides a generous 45-day money-back guarantee and a free seven-day trial—plenty of time to find out if this service is right for you.

Compared to other providers, the yearly Hotspot Shield Premium package for $12.99/month is pricey. For example, NordVPN’s annual plan costs £3.64/month, and Cyber Ghost is £3.45/month

Customer Support

Whether you have issues with payments, connectivity, or security, Hotspot Shield support is available 24/7 through live chat.

But, only customers who pay for their Hotspot Shield account have access to the live chat. That’s common for free versions, although some rivals such as TunnelBear, offer support to users of the free client too.

The Hotspot Shield support center offers a lot of helpful information to users, including troubleshooting guides for specific devices, an FAQ section, and an easy-to-navigate database. 

We went through numerous reviews and found many positive comments for the provider’s customer support team. Reps are often described as helpful, responsive, and polite.

Want to Consider Other Options?

Let’s explore how Hotspot Shield stacks up against some of its biggest competitors.

Hotspot Shield VPN vs Surfshark

These two VPNs are some of the best but also the priciest ones out there, at over £9 for a month-to-month subscription.

Both apps automatically block malware and ads, but the Hotspot Shield app also blocks unwanted calls using Hiya or Robo Shield. 

You can generally expect a faster connection with Hotspot Shield. While the two are similar in speed if you are on a server that’s near, on longer distances, Surfshark can’t match its rival’s performance. Surfshark runs IKEv2 and OpenVPN protocols, whereas Hotspot Shield supports its own Catapult Hydra protocol.

Hotspot Shield VPN vs Express VPN

ExpressVPN and Hotspot Shield are both popular providers. ExpressVPN is considered one of the fastest VPNs, but the Hotspot Shield app achieves comparable results. Both apps are compatible with Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS, and both use strong encryption. 

The difference between these two VPNs is that ExpressVPN features IPv6 leak protection, while Hotspot Shield doesn’t have that feature. ExpressVPN’s monthly subscription is a bit more expensive than Hotspot Shield’s, but both are on the high end of the price range.

Bottom Line: Is Hotspot Shield Worth It?

If you’re looking for a fast VPN service that provides maximum security and privacy to its users, Hotspot Shield may be the right choice for you. 

On the downside, there are some privacy concerns—although the company promotes its “no-logs” policy, some are skeptical about the service because of its incorporation in the US. What’s more, Hotspot Shield only allows five simultaneous connections, which, compared to Surfshark’s unlimited devices, is a bit of a letdown.

However, Hotspot Shield VPN is excellent for streaming and torrenting and provides some of the fastest connections on the market. And if you aren’t satisfied with the service, there’s a 45-day money-back guarantee.

FAQ

Is Hotspot Shield safe?

Hotspot Shield uses its own Catapult Hydra protocol and a highly secure 256-bit AES encryption, considered the industry’s gold standard for security.

Is Hotspot Shield a virus?

No. Hotspot Shield is a VPN provider that encrypts your data and lets you browse the internet securely and anonymously.

How good is Hotspot Shield?

Hotspot Shield is ranked among the fastest VPNs. Working on its own Catapult Hydra protocol, it’s perfect for streaming, gaming, and torrenting.

How does Hotspot Shield work?

The Hotspot Shield enables users to send encrypted data over unencrypted network connections by creating a private network connection. This means that it offers users security, privacy, and anonymity when streaming, downloading, or browsing.

Is Hotspot Shield free?

Hotspot Shield offers a free Basic VPN plan, which is ideal for undemanding internet users. It comes with certain limitations, so if you need more features, consider upgrading to their Premium plan. Read our Hotspot Shield review above to find out more about packages, services, and everything else you need to know about this provider.

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