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 2018 to find out.
HotSpot Shield Review – Pros & Cons
- Proprietary connection protocol
- No bandwidth limit on Elite
- Advanced leak protection
- Includes malware protection
- Battle-tested: used during Arab Spring
- No conventional protocol choices
- Free version stuffed with advertising
- Customer support suffers from quality issues
HotSpot Shield Overall Score:
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.
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.
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.
Rating: 9.2/10 Easy installation and easy, if pared down, user interface.
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
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.
Rating: 9.2/10 A decent selection of VPN and online security tools.
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.
Rating: 9.2/10 Currently working.
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:
- $119.99 for lifetime access
- $5.99 per month for yearly access (53% off)
- $8.99 per month for six-month access (31% off)
- $12.99 when purchased on a monthly basis
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.
Rating: 9.8/10 Cheap and lifetime purchase option available.
How Fast is Hotspot Shield: Servers and Performance
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.
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.
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).
Rating: 9.2/10 Great server speeds but a small network.
How Secure is Hotspot Shield – Hotspot Shield Logs
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.
Rating: 8.3/10 Zero logs but US-based and with a questionable privacy history
Is Hotspot Shield Reliable? Customer Support
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.
Rating 7.5/10: Support is generally considered poor and availability is substandard.
Hotspot Shield Rating by SecureThoughts.com