Hotspot Shield VPN Review
Hotspot Shield Rating:
Hotspot Shield VPN - Full Review
If you want to ensure your online activity is protected from the attention of data-harvesting criminals and unscrupulous ISPs, a virtual private network is an essential bit of software that will keep you safe. VPNs work by encrypting your data and routing your traffic through servers around the world, keeping your real IP address hidden and your information secure.
With so many rival products to consider in the VPN market, it may not immediately be obvious which one is the most suited to your needs. With this in mind, we’ve been reviewing all of the most well-known VPNs around to give you a better idea of what is available, and this week we’re taking a look at Hotspot Shield VPN.
The method used to keep your details private involves re-routing your traffic via an additional server, and one drawback of this process is that it can lead to reduced internet speed – potentially making it difficult to stream high-quality video or play games online.
Each VPN manages this reduction in speed differently, and Hotspot Shield performed reasonably well during testing with an average download speed reduction of a little over 25% – so if your internet connection offers decent speeds without a VPN, it’s unlikely that Hotspot Shield will have a major impact. Upload speed reduction was a shade over 40%, which compares favourably to many VPNs on the market.
Hotspot Shield’s server base covers more than 80 countries, with around 1,800 servers available. While this can’t compare with the 5,000 offered by market leaders NordVPN, it’s a very decent number that should allow you to find a quick, reliable connection without much difficulty. Unlike many competitors, the software features servers in China and Russia, providing access to geo-blocked content that you may not otherwise be able to reach.
Additional features offered by Hotspot Shield include a kill switch – an essential function that allows you to disconnect from the internet automatically if your VPN is cut off, ensuring your online activity does not become public even for a moment – and split tunnelling, which allows you to choose which apps connect via the VPN and which do not.
However, the company’s attitude towards logging is somewhat vague, which could be cause for concern. Hotspot Shield logs the length of time you’ve been connected and the amount of data you’ve used, with the company claiming that this is necessary because new users do not need to register – but this is worth considering, as most rival products operate an unequivocal no-logging policy.
If you’ve ever tried to log into a streaming service while abroad, you may have found yourself unable to access content due to ‘geo-restrictions’. Some streaming apps provide different content libraries to different regions and limit those libraries to the specific regions – but a VPN can provide a way around these restrictions.
When we tested it, we were able to access a variety of content libraries on major streaming services including Netflix by connecting to the VPN via a server in the country whose content we wished to view – so if you travel abroad regularly or your favourites shows are only available elsewhere in the world, Hotspot Shield is an excellent choice of VPN.
Torrenting with a VPN is something of a double-edged sword – while it hides your activity from the attention of your ISP, the decreased internet speed means it will take much longer to download large files – however, as mentioned above, Hotspot Shield performs very well with regard to the amount of speed loss you incur.
With no restrictions on the servers and high-level encryption that ensures your online activity stays private, Hotspot Shield is an excellent choice for regular users of P2P file-sharing software.
If you play games online regularly, you may occasionally notice that your download speeds drop at peak times. This is often because your ISP ‘throttles’ your bandwidth during these periods, which can lead to problems with lag if you’re playing a game that uses a lot of data.
Of course, the decrease in speed that connecting via a VPN can be just as problematic – but Hotspot Shield’s good performance in this area ensures that you should be able to play online without too many problems – and you should be able to access geo-restricted content as well.
Hotspot Shield offers four paid plans as well as a limited free option. The premium service is available for $7.99 per month on the year-long plan and $12.99 for the monthly plan, while the premium family option (which allows you to connect up to five devices at once) costs $11.99 per month for the year-long plan and $19.99 per month for the monthly plan.
If you only need to connect to one device at a time, the $7.99 per month option is one of the cheaper around.
Although Hotspot Shield does not offer a free trial, it does offer a free permanent version of the service. However, the free version does come with strings attached; it comes with targeted ads that quickly become annoying, while downloads are limited to just 2mbps – significantly slower than many other free VPNs.
You are also restricted to just 500mb of daily usage so, unless you’re a very occasional user, you may find alternative free VPNs more useful.
What is Hotspot Shield?
Hotspot Shield is a virtual private network, a piece of software that keeps your online activity safe and private.
How does Hotspot Shield work?
The software works by encrypting your data and routing your internet traffic through servers around the world before connecting to the site or app you wish to use.
This makes it much more difficult for outside agents to work out your IP address or location, keeping your information safe.
How can I cancel my Hotspot Shield subscription?
If you want to cancel your subscription to Hotspot Shield, you need to visit your account page on the website. Once you have signed in, you need to click on ‘account info’ and then click on ‘cancel plan’. You will be asked why you are cancelling, and then once you confirm the cancellation will be complete.
Overall, Hotspot Shield is a solid, reliable VPN that does everything you would expect of it. A large server base, fast download speeds and top-tier security protocols ensure it deserves the reputation it has as one of the best VPNs around.
Having said that, the service is towards the pricier end of the VPN market, and the ambiguity of the company’s logging policy may be a worry for some. If you’re especially security-conscious or on a tight budget, there are alternatives around that may be more useful, but for the average user Hotspot Shield performs consistently well.