Hotspot Shield

A premium VPN with a focus on raw speed

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Our Verdict

There's a lot to like about Hotspot Shield, especially its raw speed and ease of use - but if you're looking for a low priced VPN with router support then another service will likely suit your needs better.

Pros

  • Incredibly fast in most locations
  • Very easy-to-use
  • P2P support on all servers
  • Allows up to 5 simultaneous connections

Cons

  • Some plans are overpriced
  • Only works with Hotspot Shield apps
  • Not as speedy in the US
  • Doesn't unblock Netflix

Hotspot Shield Premium is the commercial edition of AnchorFree’s free ad-sponsored VPN service.

Paying to upgrade from the free version is a must if you want to have full access to Hotspot Shield’s locations and features. You also get the added benefit of being able to use this VPN without ads.

Hotspot Shield has 2,500 servers in 27 countries and while its network may not be as large as some of its competitors, the company has servers in a wide variety of locations including Australia, Brazil, China, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan and Russia, as well as Europe and North America.

The company offers clients for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS but since it now only uses its own proprietary Catapult Hydra protocol, there’s no way to manually setup the service on routers or other platforms. With Hotspot Shield you’re stuck using one of its apps and while this may be a turn off for some, most users will be content with its software.

Hotspot Shield supports up to five simultaneous connections so you can use its service on your laptop, desktop and smartphone with extra connections available for family members or new devices. This is better than ExpressVPN’s three connection limit but IPVanish still offers the most connections with support for up to 10 devices at once.

All of Hotspot Shield’s servers are P2P-friendly and with no bandwidth limits you can browse, stream or download to your heart’s content.

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Plans and pricing

Hotspot Shield Premium is more expensive than its competition but at least the company gives you plenty of options with four different plans.

A monthly billing option costs $16.90 (£12.99) but the price does drop down if you opt for the 6-month plan which costs $11.70 (£8.99) per month. Hotspot Shield’s annual subscription brings the price even further down to just $7.80 (£5.99) per month. The company takes things a step further with its 3-year plan which is far more competitive at $4.50 (£3.49) per month.

Hotspot Shield doesn’t accept Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies but you can pay be card, PayPal and other similar payment services (Alipay, Giropay, WebMoney, Yandex and more).

If you sign up for a Premium account, the company will ask for your payment details but you won’t be billed for the first seven days. This gives you plenty of time to try this VPN out for yourself and if you cancel before then you can pay absolutely nothing as Hotspot Shield has a generous 45-day money-back guarantee. 

Privacy

While most VPN’s support OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec or other standard protocols, Hotspot Shield uses its own proprietary Catapult Hydra technology instead.

Catapult Hydra focuses on improving performance and on the encryption side the service uses the same standards as other VPN companies. According to Hotspot Shield its proprietary protocol has been “evaluated by 3rd party security experts from more than 60% of the world’s largest security companies that use our SDK to provide VPN services to their users.”

Hotspot Shield also includes a kill switch feature to protect your privacy in many of its clients just in case the VPN connection suddenly drops.

Logging

Hotspot Shield doesn’t make any definitive no-logging claims on its website though a support page states that "We do not collect any personally identifiable information on Hotspot Shield. We do not collect, store, or share any permanent identifiers of users, including IP addresses. We do not keep any activity logs for any of our users, whether they are free or Premium."

The Privacy Policy spells things out a bit further, stating that "our VPN product will never store or log your IP address beyond the duration of your VPN session, and we always delete your IP address after you disconnect from the VPN." This suggests that there is no session logging which could be used to associate your incoming IP address with the VPN IP used to perform actions when connected to the service.

Performance

Hotspot Shield emphasises the performance of its Catapult Hydra protocol but does it live up to the hype? We tested the service with Netflix’ Fast and Speedtest to find out.

When we connected to servers near our location in the UK we saw speeds of around 68 to 69Mbps though these could likely be even higher with a better connection. When we tested out other European locations, such as France and Germany, our speeds dropped slightly to around 65 to 67Mbps.

When we connected to servers in the US though we saw our download speeds fall and become less consistent with performance ranging from 42 to 60Mbps which is still more than acceptable for everyday computing.

Client setup

Hotspot Shield offers clients for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS along with a browser extension for Chrome. The apps functioned as they should and setting them was a fairly simple and straightforward process.

Unfortunately due to the company using its own Catapult Hydra protocol, you won’t be able to manually setup connections with this VPN.

Hotspot Shield’s Windows client even includes the ability to automatically connect to the service when you access unsafe Wi-Fi hotspots, safe hotspots or all networks. This feature is quite handy and we wish that more VPNs included it in their offerings.

Support

If Hotspot Shield isn’t working for you, the Windows Client has its own help system built in. It doesn’t use local content but instead has documents from the website built right into the app.

The company even has a web-based Support Center with articles organised into categories such as Getting Started, Payments, Subscriptions, Troubleshooting, etc. The articles vary in detail and quality but they’re better than average and could be useful for users who are struggling.

Hotspot Shield also offers 24/7 chat support for its Premium users.

Final verdict

Hotspot Shield may not be as configurable as other VPNs and you’ll have to rely on its own apps and protocol but the service delivers when it comes to speed and performance. The company’s 7-day free trial also makes it incredibly easy to test out the service for yourself.

The Verdict

4

out of 5

Hotspot Shield

There's a lot to like about Hotspot Shield, especially its raw speed and ease of use - but if you're looking for a low priced VPN with router support then another service will likely suit your needs better.