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Hotspot Shield Review (2023)

In this Hotspot Shield review, we test the provider in 11 primary categories including pricing, security, streaming, jurisdiction, servers, speed, compatibility, leak test, and trustworthiness to help you make a considerate decision on whether you should use this VPN or not.

Hotspot Shield offers an absolutely free plan and a clean interface for all widely-used devices. It also boasts an impressive network of 1,800 servers in 35+ countries, giving you many options to spoof your location.

However, the service has fallen short in other areas quite considerably. It cannot unblock US Netflix, the VPN is based in the US which is one of the founding members of the 5 Eyes Alliance, and the logging policy is a mixed bag. Also, you can only purchase a premium plan using your credit card or PayPal. There is no anonymous payment option, which is one of the basic attributes we search for in VPNs.

Therefore, we don’t recommend the service to netizens across the world. You can head over to our VPN reviews guide if you want to check out the key features of other best VPN services. You can also check out other VPNs that are free in our best free VPN services blog.

Moreover, you can also use the eye-catching 7 days free trial that allows you to check the performance of the service of its premium plans in detail.


Our Verdict

Hotspot Shield delivers fast speed, has a wide network of servers in 115+ locations, and offers intuitive apps for all widely-used devices. Sadly, the VPN could not unblock Netflix, it’s not a good VPN for torrenting because of its logging practices, and it is a little on the pricier side. For these reasons, we would not recommend this VPN to our readers.

Overall, Hotspot Shield is good for general usage, but you should opt for a more reliable option like ExpressVPN if you want a privacy-focused VPN that can also unblock 20+ Netflix libraries.


Key Findings for Hotspot Shield VPN Review

  • Pricing: Hotspot Shield is expensive at $7.99/mo. if you sign up for a premium plan. However, you can use the absolutely free version with a daily limit of 500 MB per day.
  • Servers: Hotspot VPN offers 1800 servers in 115+ locations, covering 35+ countries.
  • Security: Hotspot Shield offers industry-standard AES 256-bit encryption but there is no OpenVPN or WireGuard protocol. The VPN offers a propriety protocol called “Catapult Hydra” which works on the Open SSL library to encrypt data.
  • Leak Test: Hotspot Shield managed to pass the leak test including IP, DNS, WebRTC, and the VirusTotal test.
  • Speed: Hotspot Shield is the 2020 Ookla Speed Test Winner. We faced a decrease of 12.13% when we tested the VPN for speed.
  • Streaming: Hotspot Shield cannot unblock US Netflix. However, it could easily bypass geo-restrictions on Hulu, Disney Plus, HBO Max, and BBC iPlayer.
  • TorrentingHotspot Shield is a decent VPN for torrenting because all 1800 servers allow P2P traffic and the VPN has impressive speed. However, we would not recommend it for your torrenting activities because of its logging practices.
  • Installation Apps and Ease of Use: Hotspot Shield VPN app for all devices have clean interfaces. However, there is a lack of advanced settings and customization.
  • Compatibility: Hotspot Shield works with all widely-used devices including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, routers, and smart TVs.
  • Bypassing Censorship: Hotspot Shield used to work in countries like China but the VPN has been failing consistently to get around China’s Firewall.
  • Trustworthiness: Hotspot Shield’s logging policy is a mixed bag. The VPN says it doesn’t keep logs but they collect customer data in a lot of areas.


Hotspot Shield Review – Pros and Cons

Pros
  1. Many server locations
  2. Clean interface
  3. Free version available
  4. Fast speed servers
  5. Propriety protocol (Catapult Hydra)
Cons
  1. Cannot unblock Netflix
  2. 500 MB per day on the free version
  3. No WireGuard or OpenVPN protocol
  4. Advertisements on the free Android app
  5. No third-party audits

Pricing – How Much is Hotspot Shield?

hotspot-shield-pricing

Hotspot Shield offers a Basic (Free) plan which comes with some limitations. But how much is Hotspot Shield premium? Basically, there are two plans; Premium or Premium Family which have a cost of $7.99/mo. and $11.99/mo.

Sadly, Hotspot Shield doesn’t qualify as one of the cheap VPN services because if we compare it to ExpressVPN, it offers a 1-year plan for $6.67/mo. while being a much better provider than Hotspot Shield.

Both of Hotspot Shield’s plans come with yearly and monthly programs. Here are the details:

Basic (Free)PremiumPremium Family
YearlyMonthlyYearlyMonthly
$0$7.99/mo.$12.99/mo.$11.99/mo.$19.99/mo.

Here is the difference between the basic and Elite (Premium and Premium Family) plans:

FeaturesFreePremium (Elite)
Server Locations1 (US)115+
Data Limit500MB per dayUnlimited
Encryption MethodAES-256AES-256
ProtocolsCatapult Hydra, IKEv2 (IPSec)Catapult Hydra, IKEv2 (IPSec)
AdvertisementsYes (on Android app)No
Customer SupportEmail only24/7 live chat support
You can buy Hotspot Shield Premium and Premium Family through:
  • Visa
  • Master Card
  • American Express
  • JCB
  • Discover
  • Diners Club International
  • PayPal

As always, the lack of Bitcoin is disappointing and there are no other anonymous payment methods as well.

Hotspot-Shield-Payment-Options

With five simultaneous connections, subscribers can connect multiple devices with just a single account. This means you do not have to pay extra for securing your entire household through this VPN.

Usually, VPNs with freemium service do not offer an extensive refund window. Some do not offer a refund at all… *cough* TunnelBear.

This makes Hotspot’s 45 days refund policy all the more impressive. With this policy in place, users should be well assured that the provider is not duping them for money.

You can also make a free Hotspot Shield account to test out the paid service of this VPN. For this, you have to sign up for a 7 days trial after launching the app.

However, you will need to enter the credentials of your credit card to access the trial. Remember, if you do not cancel the trial before 7 days, you will be charged automatically. It is considered slightly more expensive than its competitors but you can get Hotspot Shield’s best Black Friday Deal to save big on your budget.

Also, if you want to get your hands on awesome discounts, we have some amazing deals on VPNs for you to check out.


Servers

According to Hotspot Shield, it has servers in “80+” nations. That is a sizable selection, and it comes in a close second to ExpressVPN’s 94 supported nations. With more servers spread out, you have more options for faking your location and there is a greater likelihood that a server will be close by.

Hotspot Shield offers servers in a wide range of areas. It features servers in South America and four African nations, two areas that are typically overlooked by VPN providers. Additionally, Hotspot Shield offers servers in nations with restrictive internet regulations including China, Russia, Turkey, and Vietnam.

In terms of servers network premium version of Hotspot Shield provides 1800+ servers including both physical and virtual from 115+ locations.

In contrast, the Hotspot free version chooses a server for you from the US. This means the free version doesn’t allow you to switch between the servers to your liking.

Moreover, many VPN services, including Hotspot Shield use virtual servers. A server that is set up to appear in a different location than where it actually sits is a virtual location. These are software-defined servers and the host of numerous virtual servers could be a single system.

It is not a bad practice but we prefer when companies are upfront about their infrastructure and where they are located. You could be subject to the laws or monitoring systems of a certain country if your data travels through their channel.


Security – Protocols & Encryption

For years, we have been considering OpenVPN as the industry standard, which it still is. However, a new player in town, WireGuard, is going to be the new standard in the coming days. It has not been adopted widely by VPN providers and Hotspot Shield only offers it on Linux.

Is Hotspot Shield safe though? Absolutely yes. Hotspot Shield has its own propriety protocol called Catapult Hydra to secure its users’ privacy. It uses the Open SSL library to encrypt the data and it is simply an enhancement of the transport protocol.

The reason for not creating a totally new encryption protocol is that it would require an enormous amount of scrutiny and any undiscovered loophole can be destructive and used to break into the users’ data.

Also, Catapult Hydra increases speed and reliability by creating multiple channels for data to travel.

Hotspot Shield’s IKEv2 is available on Windows and Mac variants. OpenVPN, on the other hand, is available on routers only.

Here is a table for Hotspot Shield’s available protocols and encryption methods:

ProtocolsEncryption
IKEv2/IPSecYesBlowfishNo
OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)Routers onlyChaCha20No
L2TP/IPSecNoAES-256Yes
Proprietary (Hydra)YesAES-192No
WireGuardLinux onlyAES-128No

If Hotspot Shield didn’t offer what you were looking for, we advise you to sign up for one of the secure VPNs of 2023.


Leaks – IP, DNS, WebRTC & Virus Tests

Hotspot Shield easily managed to pass our leak test. The VPN is safe to use because you will not expose your original IP address, DNS, or WebRTC information while using the VPN online. We connected to an Italy server and there were no traces that leaked our original address. Here are the screenshots:

IP Leak:

As you can see, Hotspot Shield didn’t reveal our original IP address.

IP-Leak-Hotspot-Shield

DNS Leak:

Our DNS information was safe while connected to Hotspot Shield’s Italy server.

DNS-Leak-Hotspot-Shield

WebRTC Leak:

No WebRTC leaks were detected while we were connected to Hotspot Shield.

WebRTC-Leak-Test-Hotspot-Shield

Virus Test

We tested Hotspot Shield’s Windows app through VirusTotal and no security vendors or sandboxes flagged the file as malicious.

hotspot-shield-virustotal-test


Speed & Reliability

Hotspot Shield is the 2020 Ookla Speed Test Winner. It offers impressive speeds with its fast and reliable connection. We could browse on the internet without any delays and stream on popular streaming sites in HD with no buffering issues or server disconnections, for which, we give Hotspot Shield a rating of 8.9/10. However, we suggest you test the VPN by connecting to a couple of different nearby servers before.

We evaluated Hotspot Shield’s performance when connected to servers in different countries. Hotspot Shield’s connection speeds are fast enough to stream video content from other countries with ease.

Thanks to the propriety connection protocol, Catapult Hydra, the VPN performs exceptionally well in the domain of speed. Also, the latency problems with existing encryption protocols, including OpenVPN, are allegedly fixed by this technology.

Hotspot Shield always chooses a US server when you launch it, unlike the majority of VPNs which connect you to the closest or fastest server. We advise selecting a server that is closer to your physical location for the fastest speeds.

Moreover, even the free version of Hotspot Shield achieved decent speed. We carried out the test by recording our internet speed without the VPN and then connected to Hotspot Shield’s US server to measure the speed loss percentage. Here are the results:

speed-test-before-connecting-to-hotspot-shield

We achieved a download speed of 92.78 Mbps and an upload speed of 90.16 Mbps without a VPN connection.

speed-test-after-connecting-to-hotspot-shield

After connecting to the US server of Hotspot Shield, we achieved a download speed of 81.53 Mbps and an upload speed of 79.04 Mbps. As a free VPN, these numbers are quite impressive as we only experienced a decrease of 12.13%.

However, if you further want to decrease this difference and experience the best VPN experience, we recommend you sign up for one of the fastest VPNs of 2023.


Streaming – Hotspot Shield Streams BBC iPlayer But Not US Netflix

Hotspot Shield could easily unblock BBC iPlayer. There were no server disconnections or buffering issues during our 25 minutes streaming test on BBC iPlayer.

However, when I connected to the US server to access US Netflix, the VPN could not pass this test, which was disappointing. For this reason, we suggest you sign up for one of the best Netflix VPNs that offer guaranteed access to 15+ libraries globally.

Other than that, using the same US server, I could easily unblock Hulu, Disney Plus, HBO Max, and DAZN.

Hotspot Shield doesn’t offer any dedicated streaming servers, so you’ll need to connect and check multiple servers if the platform is not unblocked on your first try.

Connected to the US server using the free version, we could easily unblock Hulu and stream for 20 minutes without any problems.

hotspot-shield-unblocked-hulu

Using the same server, we could also unblock Disney Plus and HBO Max. However, the connection was not stable and we were facing buffering issues upon playing a title. But once the connection was stable after 1 -2 minutes, there were no problems watching the shows we wanted.

However, we would suggest our readers opt for a better option.

ExpressVPN is one of the best streaming VPNs that even offers a MediaStreamer feature for bypassing geo-restrictions on devices such as Apple TV, Firestick, and Roku that have no VPN support.

You can also go for other best Disney Plus VPNs or HBO Max VPNs to achieve the stability factor on these platforms which Hotspot Shield failed to provide.


Torrenting

Hotspot Shield is a decent VPN for torrenting. It supports P2P traffic on all of the 1800 servers, has high-end security features, and there are no limits on data usage. Moreover, the VPN doesn’t leak your IP, DNS, or WebRTC information.

And as we tested earlier, Hotspot Shield provided impressive speeds so torrenting large files should not be a problem.

We downloaded a 1.3 GB file while connected to Hotspot Shield and it took approximately 6 minutes for the file to completely download.

Overall, Hotspot Shield is a capable VPN for carrying out torrenting activities. However, we wouldn’t recommend it because of its logging practices.


Installation Apps and Ease of Use

While Hotspot Shield doesn’t offer many advanced settings or customizations, it has intuitive apps and easy-to-navigate interfaces on all compatible devices.

To get the app, all you need to do is navigate to the Hotspot Shield website and download the app for your device. The app is also available on the Amazon Store, Google Play Store, and Apple Store.

Once the Hotspot Shield app is downloaded, launch it and sign in with your registered email address/username and password.

Overall, Hotspot Shield offers an excellent user experience with its native apps. However, there is a lack of advanced settings, especially in the non-Windows apps.


Compatibility – Assists Numerous Platforms & Devices

compatible-devices-for-hotspot-shield-vpn

Hotspot Shield is compatible with all widely-used devices including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. Moreover, the VPN also has support for routers and smart TVs, and browser extensions.

Hotspot Shield for Windows

The Hotspot Shield Windows interface has a simple design with an easy-to-navigate black-coloured theme with a mixture of blue. The home screen consists of a big button that connects you to the VPN. On the same tab, you can also see the server location you’re connected to and the data limit you have used for the day if you’re using the free version.

hotspot-shield-windows-interface

Other tabs include a speed test option, your account information, an About Us section, a support section consisting of “FAQs”, “Live Chat”, and a “Send a Message” option.

The last tab is of the “Settings” from where you can get your hands on the General settings, Smart VPN settings, Protocols settings, Advanced settings, and Shortcuts information.

Hotspot Shield for macOS

The Mac version of Hotspot Shield is similar to its Windows version. The only difference is that it doesn’t have a “Speed Test” option.

hotspot-shield-mac-interface

Hotspot Shield for iPhone

With a modern black interface and a big blue button in the middle, Hotspot Shield’s iPhone interface is simple and clean, just like the desktop versions. Once you are connected to a server, the location is displayed in the lower section of your app.

Is Hotspot Shield safe for iPhone? Yes. The VPN offers toggle options for guarding “Unsecured Wi-Fi”, “Secured Wi-Fi”, and “Mobile Networks”.

It is not required to sign up for a plan, you can simply use the VPN for free by just downloading the app from the App Store. However, you’ll need to sign up with an account if you want more than 500 MB of data per day.

Hotspot Shield for Android

The Android app of Hotspot Shield has a dark, sleek appearance and a big round button in the middle that connects or disconnects you to the VPN. When we connected to the VPN, we could see various information like the IP address, server latency, and server load.

hotspot-shield-android-interface

The only downside of Hotspot Shield’s Android version is the absence of a kill switch and malware protection feature.


Bypassing Web Censorship

Hotspot Shield occasionally works in countries with strict censorship, like China. However, it has routinely failed to get past the country’s strong firewall.

Hotspot Shield isn’t the most trustworthy VPN for use in China and other countries with strict internet censorship, especially when compared to other VPNs like ExpressVPN.

However, the Hotspot Shield website claims that “connection is intermittent in countries where Internet Service Providers and Governments block VPN services.”

This means if a device is not working, then it recommends you try another device on a different platform as different platforms use different servers to establish a connection.

Also, the kill switch feature is only available on Hotspot Shield’s Windows platform, so if you use the app on non-Windows devices, your original identity can easily be leaked if the VPN drops accidentally. Therefore it would be safer to use one of our top-rated VPNs for China instead.


Trustworthiness – Logging Policy & Customer Support

Hotspot Shield’s logging policy is a mixed bag. The company states that it does not keep logs. Nevertheless, there are lots of areas where they mention using customer data for a variety of purposes.

The service also teams up with a few third parties as their free version is supported by advertisement. According to the provider, they only provide anonymized IP addresses to the advertisers, not the actual ones.

In addition, they also state that they do not sell the browsing history of the users to advertisers. Well, we found the stated privacy policy to be a bit problematic.

In my opinion, the VPN’s strategy of handling customer logs merits a certain amount of skepticism.

Customer Support

Hotspot Shield offers a 24/7 live chat option for paid users. However, free users will need to find their solutions in the FAQs or online resources. We would give a rating of 7.8/10 to Hotspot Shield in this section.

Here is a table describing the available options for customer support that Hotspot Shield offers:

Customer SupportAvailable on Hotspot Shield
FAQ SectionYes
Live ChatYes
Email Support via Online FormYes
24/7 Email SupportNo
Online ResourcesYes
Video TutorialsNo

FAQs – Hotspot Shield Review

Is Hotspot Shield VPN good for users in China? |=|

Yes, Hotspot Shield occasionally works for users in China to access blocked websites, news, videos, apps, and services. Also, the VPN offers excellent internet speed from which you can easily stream on BBC iPlayer. However, Hotspot Shield has been failing consistently to get around China’s Firewall.

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Is Hotspot Shield VPN good? |=|

Yes, Hotspot Shield is a good VPN if you want a free VPN with a clean interface, a network with 4 servers, and torrenting support. However, we don’t recommend Hotspot Shield if you need a reasonable VPN for security and streaming.

|SEP|

What is the use of Hotspot Shield VPN? |=|

The use of Hotspot Shield VPN is to hide your identity from hackers and protect your data by adding security and privacy to your Wi-Fi Hotspots or internet network. Hotspot Shield also gives you access to websites that are blocked in your region with a desktop and mobile VPN app.

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Alternatives

Let’s look at some of the alternatives for Hotspot Shield that work extremely well and have fast speeds:


Do We Recommend Hotspot Shield?

No, we don’t recommend Hotspot Shield.

The VPN has a staggering 600 million users worldwide. It is one of the most commonly known VPN services thanks mostly to its free client.

It offers good speed, compatibility with widely-used devices, streaming support for platforms like Hulu/Disney Plus, and it doesn’t leak your IP or DNS information. However, the VPN is not reasonable at all, it doesn’t offer an anonymous payment option, there is no OpenVPN or WireGuard protocol, and most importantly, it couldn’t unblock US Netflix.

So based on the above Hotspot Shield review, we would give Hotspot Shield a 2.8/5.0-star rating.

'Gerald Hunt

Gerald Hunt

Gerald Hunt's Biography :


Gerald is a steadfast believer in the inviolable right of every citizen to freedom of expression. Writing about online privacy and security without any regard for political correctness is his way to counter the instruments threatening our liberty. In his spare time, he loves to binge watch Netflix, anime and play video games.


Posts by Gerald Hunt

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