HotSpot Shield VPN Review

March 2020 HotSpot Shield VPN Review & Deals
Hotspot offers two subscription levels for its VPN service: a free service and Elite, its premium offering. Although Hotspot is one of the smaller brands on the VPN scene, it does have over 500 million worldwide users on its books. Is this a VPN service that you should consider using? Read our Hotspot Shield review 2019 to find out.
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Compatible With

  • Amazon
  • Hulu
  • Snapchat
  • YouTube
  • BBC iPlayer
  • HBO
  • Spotify
  • WhatsApp
  • Netflix

Recommended For

  • Streaming
  • Available apps
  • Connection speeds

Hotspot Shield Review

Hotspot Shield Rating by

Even with fewer connection protocols, a questionable privacy policy given headquarter location and less than stellar customer support, Hotspot Shield is a good provider with some very impressive connection speeds on its small network of servers. Morevoer, the lifetime pricing option is a great deal for those that are satisfied with it and confident enough to commit to the long-term.

HotSpot Shield Review – Pros & Cons

Hotspot VPN offers a generous 45-day money-back guarantee and apps for Windows, Mac, and Android. Nevertheless, in terms of brand recognition, it clearly lags behind some of the household names that dominate the industry. Is Hotspot a provider that you should consider for your next VPN purchase? Our reviews on Hotspot Shield delved into its features, pricing, and server speed to give you an answer.

Things We Like

Proprietary connection protocol

No bandwidth limit on Elite

Advanced leak protection

Includes malware protection

Battle-tested: used during Arab Spring

Things We Didn't Like

Free version has ads

Customer support suffers from some quality issues

Is Hotspot Shield Reliable?

One area in which Hotspot Shield is unlikely to wow users is its customer support which has drawn the ire of many online reviewers who have taken to customer review websites to lambaste the company’s “appalling” responsiveness and success-rate in helping users resolve issues.

The company operates an online help center with well-written knowledge base articles for connecting to all the company’s supported platforms as well as an online ticket system where users can submit support requests.

Missing, of course, are both live chat and phone support options. Given that the former is nearly universal among VPN providers, this is one area where the company could really.

How Fast is Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield’s server network is certainly one of the smaller ones on the market. Currently, it offers connection points in 25 countries around the world.

HotSpot Shield review - Selecting servers

Despite that, the company does not go into much detail about exactly where those are located.

Performance-wise, however, Hotspot Shield’s speeds are certainly nothing to sniff at.

From a pre-connection download speed of 41.81 Mbps, we managed 37.08 Mbps tunneling traffic through Russia, 42.17 Mbps through Germany (an increase on baseline!), and 22.17 Mbps through the US.

Hotspot Shield - VPN before connection

Hotspot Shield - Connection speed through Russia

HotSpot Shield Review -Connection speed through Germany

HotSpot Shield review -Connection speed through USA server

These are some of the most impressive speeds of any platform that we have tested, and seeing an increase on the downlink over baseline is certainly quite unusual (this has to do with the packet compression over the company’s proprietary protocol, apparently).

How Secure is Hotspot Shield

Firstly, Hotspot Shield and its parent company, AnchorFree, is headquartered in Menlo Park, California, in the United States.

Although the company does maintain an office in privacy-friendly Switzerland, users should presume that all browsing activity they conduct through the tool is subject to the jurisdiction of the United States: a privacy-adverse territory that has widespread internet surveillance laws on its books (not to mention being the founding member of the Five Eyes signals intelligence grouping).

Logs-wise, the company has recently asserted that it does not “collect any personally identifiable information… including IP addresses.” According to its support article, this applies to both Free and Elite accounts.

Nevertheless, the company has previously come under fire from privacy campaigners who have asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate it for what they allege to be deceptive trade practices, including exploiting loopholes in their privacy policy to use users’ browsing activity for advertising purposes.

Setup and Usability

Installations files for Hotspot can be downloaded from the product’s website, the Chrome app store, and the Android Google Play Store.

Setting the VPN up on all platforms was relatively simple. After launching the program on Windows, for example, users simply need to give the application permission to install and then enter their user credentials.

Hotspot shield first setup screen

Hotspot shield setup in progress

In terms of usability, the Windows app can certainly claim to be streamlined. While there isn’t an overabundance of options to choose from (the main menu has just four options), we found the app’s easy navigation to be endearing rather than frustrating.

One aspect where less simplicity might be helpful, however, is the server navigation which is rather bare-bones and doesn’t convey detailed information such as latency times and exact locations.

Hotspot Shield Features

Feature 1: Proprietary Encryption

The encryption protocol is one of the most important aspects to consider when evaluating a VPN. While some protocols, such as IKEv2, offer the latest in security features, others are designed to work quickly on older hardware. Hotspot Shield’s parent company, AnchorFree Inc. has developed its own in-house protocol, named Catapult Hydra. Evidently, although we don’t know exactly what the company’s ‘secret sauce’ is, the security is strong: during the Arab Spring protests in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, the VPN was used to successfully bypass government censorship of the protests.

Feature 2: No Bandwidth Limits

Hotspot’s premium subscription level, Elite, features unlimited connection bandwidth. This is great news for those that want to use the VPN as a means of bypassing geolocation filters to access multimedia websites such as Netflix. Using a bandwidth-free VPN is also a  useful means of working around any bandwidth limitations that your internet service provider (ISP) might impose on your connection.

Feature 3: IPv6 / WebRTC Leak Protection

IPv6 is the next generation internet connection protocol. While not currently in widespread use, it does represent a major concern because of the ease through which user data can be leaked (due to the slow rate of adoption, many ISPs have yet to implement sufficient protection mechanisms for this on their end). Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), which powers most web-based voice, video and file sharing apps, is another potential leak source. Thankfully, Hotspot Shield features built-in protection against both of these

HotSpot Shield Review Settings

Feature 4: Malware Protection

Hotspot VPN draws on its parent company’s database of over 3.5 million known and suspicious malware domain to include user protection against a variety of online malware vectors including Trojan site, phishing pages, infected sites, and content farms. Coupled with a strong antivirus protection, users can easily get all the protection they need against Internet-borne threats by subscribing to the platform.

Feature 5: Multi-Platform

HotspotVPN can be used on a variety of platforms which is a plus for those hoping to use it on multiple devices.

It currently supports iOS devices (iPhones and iPads), Android, Mac, and Windows. In addition, it is available as a Chrome extension which means that it can run on the browser irrespective of which operating system the user is running.

While the simultaneous connection on the free plan is limited to one device, Elite users have that updated to five, the industry standard.

Can Hotspot VPN Unblock Netflix?

Yes, Hotspot VPN is one of the providers that is not currently falling afoul of Netflix’s attempts to ban traffic emanating from VPN domains from connecting to its content.

Although that is currently the case, users should also be aware that Hotspot’s track record for ensuring that users have access to the popular multimedia site is not as strong as that of other providers, including ExpressVPN.

While users may use it as their Netflix-connecting VPN of choice, they should be aware that the Netflix-VPN provider tug-o-war is in a constant state of flux.

Hotspot Shield Price

Hotspot Shield currently offers two service levels: Hotspot Shield Free, which is all that the service originally was offered as, and Hotspot Shield Elite.

Hotspot Shield Free is an ad-supported VPN and users are likely to find the deluge of advertising it throws at them frustrating. Given the affordable pricing structure of Elite and the ability to purchase a lifetime (‘one time’) subscription for a little over $100, users would be well-advised to shell out for the premium version.

The current prices for the Elite subscription level are:

  • $12.99 when purchased on a monthly basis
  • $8.99 per month for six-month access (31% off)
  • $2.99 per month for 2-year access (76% off)

Elite is certainly on the cheaper end of the VPN market, and the ability to purchase a lifetime subscription is one that few other providers are currently offering. Users can also choose to avail of the 7-day Hotspot Shield free trial option on the Elite subscription. Elite users also have a 30 day period during which they can request a refund after purchase.

Comment Section

papi says:

skype doesnt work in china but wechat does

Zeech says:

Just arrived in Shanghai, used Hotspot Shield previously in Caribbean. It’s TOTALLY USELESS here, and the website is not help either. My Laptop and Mobile Devices do not log on, My password even gets an error.
I’ve lost 12 Pounds Sterling and am well vexed. A colleague heard me cussing about this piece of shit vaporware (no refund) and told me about Express VPN. In minutes over the hotel’s open wifi connect I was hooked up, all my devices are now using Express VPN.
PS: I’m a Mac Head so it was all iPhones, iPads, Mac Books Pros .

Mike says:

works sometimes, but will disconnect without warning notification

This product is a DISASTER despite their own claim that they’re the best. LOL

Pisspoor user interface.

NO support…

HotSpot crashed my iPod to where I CANNOT ACCESS THE INTERNET at all. Apparently I will have to rebuild my iPad OS and apps from the ground up.

Unable to remove Hotspot from my iPod

On my iPhone their logo indicates connected WHEN IT IS NOT CONNECTED

BG says:

Poor customer service. Paid for 1 year unlimited service and never received an activation code. emailed Hotspot shield and they responded with the need for a lot of information concerning my credit card payment. 48 hours still not activation code. I can not comment on any of the other survey questions because of lack of customer support.

Karen Tennison says:

This is my experience with Hotspot Shield. It has slowed me down; pages load more slowly. The sign-in page pops up when I do some searches and will not go away even though I am signed in and sign in again. I have to wait a long time for it to disappear. Netflix blocks users out of the country immediately. I wasn’t able to watch one film on Netflix and furthermore, I couldn’t just pause HSS and sign in from Mexico; often I had to reboot in order to get it. Hotspot Shield manages to add itself to my log-in items even though I keep deleting it. I rather hate Hotspot Shield. The only good thing I get from it is that my browser will load English pages rather than Mexican/Spanish ones…most of the time.

Lyndon Seitz says:

Hey Karen,

Sorry you had a rough time with this one. There are other VPNs we recommend that will hopefully serve you better. You can check out our reviews here
Hope this information helps!