Hotspot Shield VPN Review 2023
- Chrome & Firefox VPN extensions
- unlimited data and 24/7 chat support
- Secure servers in 80+ countries
- Monthly package is relatively pricey
Hotpot Shield VPN is the largest VPN service with more then 700 million downloads world-wide. The VPN service allows you to connect your devices to over 1,800 VPN servers, located within 80+ countries. The product provides unlimited bandwidth, with no restrictions on changing your server location. They furthermore implement Dynamic IP addresses, which constantly changes your IP to better protect your sessions.
Hotspot Shield VPN features – Advanced settings
Although Hotspot Shield is feature-filled, the app itself is super sleek, in dark hues of blue. All icons are neatly laid out for instant access to the menu. Once you engage the hamburger icon, you’ll get a more in-depth peak of what’s under the hood, with ‘home’, ‘account’, ‘bundle’, ‘about us’, ‘help’ and ‘settings’ sections.
Under the settings menu, notable features include ‘domain bypass’, where you can add URL’s that you would like to bypass the VPN. Under ‘advanced’ you can activate the Kill Switch, enable auto-protect (for use when connected to public Wi-Fi) and turn on Prevent IP leak, which will prevent IP detection whilst connected to the VPN.
Security and Encryption
With robust military-grade encryption, otherwise referred to as AES 256-bit encryption, Hotspot Shield VPN keeps your sessions secure whilst connected to the VPN. They furthermore utilize a key-agreement protocol – perfect forward secrecy – which is a protocol that changes the way it encrypts and decrypts information on a frequent basis to make the encryption key even more secure.
The company developed their own proprietary protocol, known as Catapult Hydra, which they claim to be 2.4 times more efficient than OpenVPN – particularly over extended ranges. Their development of the Hydra protocol came after intensive research to improve on existing VPN security standards, whilst maintaining a balance speed and security.
During my research I found that Hotspot Shield also implements VPN tunneling via SSTP by means of SSL 3.0 (Secure Socket Layer) – a data protection protocol that initiates PPTP or L2TP protocols. A tech agent advised that this is a Windows OS explanation – and in the end, the Hydra protocol is applicable to all operating systems.
Hotspot Shield states that they do not collect identifying information during your VPN sessions – except when you communicate with them directly, where you’ve identified yourself. Remaining data is encrypted and according to the company, they do not inspect or log any data. They do however log general, non-identifying metadata, such as info on connection duration and bandwidth usage – but only to improve on their services.
Hotspot Shield VPN has 3 pricing options. The annual plan is a once-off payment of $95.88 (discounted by 38% from $115.88) which will give you access to the premium software for a full 12 months. The yearly billing plan works out to $7.99 per month. Alternatively, you can opt for their monthly billing option, which runs month-to-month for $12.99 per month and I found it to be quite pricy. The best offer is the 3-year plan @$2.99 per month.
Hotspot Shield also offers a 45-day money-back guarantee so you can try this VPN risk free.
In terms of available payment processors, you can opt for the credit card facility, which supports VISA, MasterCard, American Express, JCB, Discover and Diners Club. You can also conveniently process your transaction through PayPal.
Ease of Use
Once you’ve completed the checkout process, you’ll be redirected to a page to download the software relevant to your OS. For my Windows OS, the app download was just over 13mb. The process of installing and initiating Hotpot Shield is really straightforward and self-explanatory and you’ll be up and running in a few clicks or taps.
The Hotspot Shield VPN app is in a league of its own and this is very evident upon first glance. The software is streamlined and fuss-free – and they get straight down to business, providing you with the ultimate VPN solution. It is really easy to find your feet and master the software.
Connecting to a server is a breeze and can be done from the ‘home’ screen. You can either instantly connect via ‘quick access’ or your can browse ‘all locations’, where selecting a country will reveal all the available cities within that country. Alternatively, utilize the search bar to find a specific location and you’ll be connected to the best available server within that region.
The remaining sections give you a quick overview of your account and under the ‘bundle’ tab you can activate additional Pango apps (additional app availably is region dependent). There is an interactive ‘about us’ section where you can learn more about the company and take a product tour, along with a ‘help’ menu.
Customize Hotspot Shield to get the maximum out of your experience by navigating to the ‘settings’ tab, where you’ll find ‘general’, ‘domain bypass’, ‘advanced’ and ‘shortcuts’ – with all of the essentials you need to set the app up according to your liking.
NOTE: The default software that downloaded after my purchase did not work and I was unable to connect the VPN. I contacted customer support via live chat and was told that the software is outdated. They sent me a link to the latest version of the software. They are aware of this and their intention is to ensure that the latest version is absolutely stable before making it the default software.
I determined my baseline speed (not connected via a VPN) by running multiple tests on speedtest.net over a 100mb symmetrical fibre line – connected via an Ethernet cable directly to my router. The tests were conducted on a Dell XPS15 4k touchscreen laptop with 32GB ram and a 1TB SSD (utilizing a Gigabit USB to Ethernet adapter – well worth a purchase if you’re looking for that extra bit of speed that you sacrifice when connected via WiFi).
For the VPN speed test, I connected to the default US server, which was located in New York. I ran multiple consecutive tests and drew an average speed and ping reaction time from those figures.
- Baseline Speeds: 55.87Mbps Download / 87.94Mbps Upload
- Baseline Ping: 4.67ms
- Hotspot Shield Default US VPN Speeds: 13.54Mbps Download / 5.72Mpbs Upload
- Hotspot Shield Default US VPN Ping: 196ms
Hotspot Shield was voted “World’s Fastest VPN” by Ookla (speedtest.net).
Supported OS & Devices
The software is supported on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android operating systems – and you can use the Hotspot Shield Chrome Extension to secure your browsing experience. They software is not yet supported on VPN compatible routers – but that is in the works. Cross-device compatibility allows you to install the app on your laptop, PC, mobile phone or tablet – with 5 connections allowed per subscription.
Hotspot Shield VPN on Windows OS
Hotspot Shield VPN country selection
Hotspot Shield VPN supports more then 80 countries and more then 30 cities worldwide.
Country selection screen
Hotspot Shield offers unrivaled customer support and it was a treat to engage with them. You can either contact the support team directly from their website, or you can go to the ‘help’ tab from within your app. There you’ll find a comprehensive FAQ guide, along with ‘live chat’ (available 24/7) or ‘send a message’ options.
I never waited longer than a few seconds to be connected to a tech agent via live chat and they were all incredibly knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. After a live chat session, a transcript of your conversation will be sent to you via email.
Simultaneous connections allowed: 5
Server locations: 80+ (depending on your OS)
Number of servers: 1800+ (depending on your OS)
Average speed (in Mbps): 9.63Mbps
Bottom line – Hotspot Shield VPN review
Hotspot Shield is an excellent choice to securely access your content online. With an easy-to-use stunning app interface and superior 24/7 live support this is one of our top choices.