Reviewed by: André Spiteri
Billed as the most trusted privacy solution around, Hotspot Shield’s features sure make an impression. It garners superior design and technology making it an easy-to-use, fast, secure, and reliable VPN for anonymous and secure browsing, fast performance streaming, access to global content, and Wi-Fi security. Hotspot Shield Elite gives users access to a wide selection of well-encrypted IP addresses, and over 2,500 servers all around the world.
This service has proven to be one of the most effective at protecting data, by drastically reducing the risk of interception using 128-bit AES and 256-bit AES encryption as a standard.
With their own patented, proprietary VPN protocol, Catapult Hydra, (built for Hotspot Shield and used by most large security companies and many telcos), Hotspot Shield compresses your data, which allows it to move much more quickly to its destination than other VPNs on the market. The differentiation is ease of use and fast performance.
Its anti-malware protection and ad-blocker are a particularly nice touch. It’s also unbeatable when it comes to value for money - the only service around that offers a lifetime of online security for a low one-time fee.
Hotspot Shield is available both as a free version and as a paid version, Hotspot Shield Elite, both of which support all major operating systems and devices.
Both versions feature 128-bit and 256-bit AES encryption via, its own proprietary data compressions, which significantly reduces the size of your data files, allowing them to be transmitted quickly.
With over 30 patents, Hydra also significantly improves performance over long-distance connections (for instance, throughput of connection between Frankfurt and San Jose could be twice as fast when using Hotspot Shield VPN than without it).
It also decreases the time to establish the VPN connection and the latency of small file downloads. The “secret sauce” of the protocol that gives it a large performance advantage is how the payload is delivered inside the secure tunnels between the client and the server.
As a result, PCWorld has recently recognized Hotspot Shield VPN as the fastest VPN product on the market.
The free version has a few, expected limitations, including limited bandwidth and a paywall that prevents access to Netflix, Hulu and other popular streaming sites.
Hotspot Shield keeps absolutely no logs, neither for paid nor free users. That said, the free version is supported by ads, which might beg the question of how anonymous the service is, but an official privacy statement from Hotspot Shield quickly resolves any doubt about users’ data privacy:
“While we do collect anonymized information about the websites and devices that are most popular among our users, none of this data is identifiable and cannot be attributed to a specific person using our service.
The free version of our Hotspot Shield solution openly and clearly states that it is funded by ads, however, we collect no personally identifiable user data and intercept no traffic with neither the free nor the premium version of our solutions. We never share any personally identifiable information with any of the advertisers. Our users’ online privacy has always been our absolute priority.”
Of course, Hotspot Shield’s Elite plan is your best bet. You’ll get unlimited bandwidth for ultra-fast streaming and downloading, support for up to five simultaneous connections, access to over 2,500 premium servers in 25 countries, as well as ad-blocking and malware detection features.
Somewhat predictably, the connection can be a bit patchy on the free tier, especially during peak times.
One thing you must keep in mind is that your internet speed depends on multiple factors. First and foremost, this includes the overall strength of your internet service, your internet connection, and the location of the VPN server you’re connected to.
On the other hand, paid members enjoy unlimited bandwidth and access to the fastest premium servers, which considerably improves the service’s reliability and performance. Hotspot Shield also uses its own proprietary DNS servers via mother company AnchorFree.
Hotspot Shield Elite supports up to five simultaneous connections and works on all major operating systems and devices. Some basic features may not have scaled to all platforms, but the core technology and ease-of-use is there to impress.
Hotspot Shield has a dedicated live chat tech support service that operates from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM in the US.
You can get in touch with customer support by opening a support ticket to receive helpful, timely responses to your questions. Be on the lookout though, Hotspot Shield is set to launch 24/7 live tech support via chat soon.
There is also a comprehensive knowledge base with guides, FAQs and even release notes for various app updates.
Hotspot Shield’s blog is well worth checking out. Not only is it regularly updated with useful information on how to make the most of your VPN, but the posts sometimes include promotional codes with great discounts.
Hotspot Shield Elite offers a generous 45-day money back guarantee, giving you ample time to evaluate the service. In comparison to other VPNs, this is quite a lengthy guarantee that shows how confident they are in the overall quality of their VPN.
At $11.99 a month, Hotspot Shield Elite is quite pricey. However, it’s simply unbeatable if you pay for a chunk in advance.
Buying a year’s subscription upfront brings the price down to $5.99 a month, whilst buying two years’ worth upfront costs $2.99.
Hotspot Shield impressed us with its performance and features. It includes military-grade encryption protocols for excellent privacy and data protection, including malware- and ad-blocking.
With a great selection of over 2,500 global VPN servers to choose from, free browser plugins, and, with unlimited bandwidth for streaming and downloading, it’s safe to say Hotspot Shield is one of the best VPNs available. It’s also offers incredible value for money for longer subscriptions.