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    Hotspot Shield

    hotspotshield
    4.0 / 5.0
    4.5/5
    • Jurisdiction: USA
    • Advanced Privacy Features: Kill Switch (Windows only), Hydra protocol, Split tunneling
    • Number of Servers and Countries: Servers in 80+ countries
    • Streaming and P2P: Yes

    Pros

    Cons

    Hotspot Shield VPN Review 

    VPNs continue to grow in popularity due to more public knowledge of websites selling or sharing our information to advertisers and other third parties. No one is looking out for you, so it’s your job to look out for yourself. A great way to do that might be with Hotspot Shield. It’s a popular VPN provider with a bit of a tainted reputation. 

    In this Hotspot Shield review, we’re looking at the privacy, speed, and features of this VPN to see if it’s a safe and secure option for private internet browsing. 

    About Hotspot Shield VPN 

    hotspot shield

    Hotspot Shield is a virtual private network that’s divided into two parts. The company has a paid version called Hotspot Shield Elite, and they have their main product, which is a free VPN service. We frequently see other VPN providers using Hotspot Shield as their VPN provider when they don’t have one to use for themselves. 

    In many cases, other VPNs will “white label” Hotspot Shield and piggyback off their servers. This process is something you want to avoid because it’s unclear as to what level of security and protection you’re getting. 

    That said, here you’re getting the real deal. 

    The VPN debuted in 2008, founded by the company “AnchorFree.” This Silicon Valley company eventually developed Hotspot Shield for mobile apps in 2011 and 2012 to work alongside the desktop application. In 2019, Hotspot Shield was acquired by Pango, a developer of the famous password manager app 1Password. And just about one year after, in late 2020, Pango was bought by Aura.

    As with all VPNs, the goal of Hotspot Shield is to develop an encrypted connection through one of the servers allowing users to connect to the internet more securely. 

    While Hotspot Shield does offer a “freemium” plan, it’s pretty limited, and we’ll get into more of those details coming up. 

    Understanding Pango 

    pango

    To better understand Hotspot Shield, we should understand it’s parent company, Pango. By taking a look at their reputation and some of their other product offerings, we can begin to see if their history enhances our opinions of the company and makes us feel more confident about trusting them with our personal data. 

    They state that they built this company, hoping that everyone could browse the internet safely and securely without having to worry about someone spying on them. 

    They’re constantly adding their portfolio of products, so they’re not only providing you with an encrypted connection, but they’re offering an entire suite of products to provide privacy solutions for years to come. 

    If we look at the company directors, we see that there are some big names present here. Founders of major companies, tech startups, and industry disruptors are all responsible for making Hotspot Shield what we hope it is. 

    So, you might be wondering, what else does Pango offer

    In addition to Hotspot Shield, they have another product called Robo Shield. It’s only available in the United States and Canada on apple products, but it blocks robocalls by automatically identifying spam and telemarketing calls. 

    They also have a product called 1Password, which is a password manager that helps you create strong and secure passwords while also storing them in an encrypted database, so you never have to worry about forgetting them. 

    Lastly, they have another product called Identity Guard that protects your digital and financial information from falling into the wrong hands. It’s essentially identity theft protection that constantly monitors your personal information to ensure that nothing strange is happening with your money. 

    If you’re interested in learning more about these three products outside of Hotspot Shield, we’ll take an in-depth look at them towards the end of the review. 

    Jurisdiction

    One of the first things we looked for in this Hotspot Shield VPN review is jurisdiction and privacy laws. These are two of the most important factors because they play a major role in how safe your information is in the hands of the “people in charge.” 

    Even the best company with the highest of intentions will fail in an environment that is built for them to fail. Some companies are based in countries with strict laws regarding data retention. It makes it much more difficult for them to safeguard your information because third-parties are constantly banging down the door, trying to get at it. 

    We know that Pango is based in Silicon Valley, California, which gives Hotspot Shield a US jurisdiction. This factor is a red flag right off the bat because the United States has very tough laws regarding privacy, and even if the company is focused on maintaining your privacy, they’re highly challenged. 

    Typically any VPN based in the United States is not a good choice because one way or another, they have to log more customer’s information than required for operating VPN service. 

    Hotspot Shield VPN Logging Policy 

    Logging is a big gray area with a lot of VPNs because many of them will claim that they have a “no logging” policy, but you still find out that they’re keeping all of this personally identifiable information about you. 

    The truth is, no one can know anything for sure, but all we want to know is that they’re being transparent and telling us what information they keep and why. Here’s what we found: 

    Connection Information – Hotspot Shield logs information regarding when you connect to the VPN, how long you connect, what devices you connect from, and how much bandwidth you use during that time. 

    IP Address – They log your IP address during the time you’re using the VPN. It’s encrypted immediately and then deleted when you disconnect from the VPN. 

    Device Information – The company logs device identifiers, browser types, device settings, operating system version, wireless network information, and application version numbers. 

    If you’re using the free version, you’ll also have to deal with ads, and with advertisements comes additional logging information, including mobile IDs, MAC addresses, and location information. 

    To be blunt, this is a horrible privacy policy, and Hotspot Shield is collecting way more information about you than any other VPN we’ve looked at so far. Now, of course, they do say: 

    “Even if a government agency physically seizes one of our VPN servers and succeeds in breaking disk encryption on those servers, they would not find any logs or information that would reveal what any individual user was browsing, viewing, or doing online via a VPN connection.”

    But that’s downright false. All of the information you’re providing to Hotspot Shield can be used to identify you because they play on patterns, and they pay attention to certain things that turn up frequently; then they use those small details to piece together a person eventually. 

    Things like connection timestamps paired with device information alone are enough to identify a person. Once they’ve done that, they can locate the specific IP address linked to that person and wait for them to sign onto the VPN. Since Hotspot Shield is using your IP address during the duration of your time online, once you’re on, they could likely figure out your exact location. 

    Transparency

    There is a silver lining here, so don’t count out Hotspot Shield just yet. We found a transparency report from 2019 covering the previous two years, and it breaks down all the requests that the company has had for information regarding its users. 

    The good news is, they did not forfeit any information in those two years even after requests. This is likely due to the fact that the Electronic Communications Protection Act says that third-parties cannot force a company to provide information to law enforcement regarding its users. 

    It even says that foreign parties need to seek US counsel in this area as well. So, for example, in 2018, the company received 56 requests for data but produced none. In 2017, they received 92 requests for data and produced none once again. 

    This report does show that Hotspot Shield is dedicated to protecting your information even with the US jurisdiction. They go on to say that the only way they cooperate with law enforcement is by blocking access to certain websites from the VPN.  

    A Troubling Past 

    Whenever a company changes hands a bunch of times, you have to wonder about the legitimacy of the operation. Pango is now owned by the company called Aura.

    Pango also owns some other VPNs, including TouchVPN and Betternet. In 2016, a report found that Hotspot Shield’s Android app was inserting Java codes for tracking and advertising purposes. They use these codes to collect personal information about users and then sell it to advertisers. 

    They also cited the company for funneling users through affiliate codes to collect commissions on all products purchased while using the VPN. This is a tremendous privacy breach because you can trace all of these affiliate purchases back to a physical IP address. 

    In 2017, there was a Federal Trade Commission investigation done on Hotspot Shield for unfair and deceptive trade practices. The investigation found that the company was making false claims and inflating the benefits of using their product. 

    They concluded that the company was misleading its users by not providing a clear privacy policy explaining all the information they collect and its use. The investigation applied primarily to the free version of the product. 

    As you can see, learning about a company’s history can tell you a lot about their future. So far, we’re not a big fan of Hotspot Shield, and we’re not sure if they have your best interest in mind. 

    Hotspot Shield Features 

    Now that you understand a little about their history let’s see if Hotspot Shield can redeem itself by providing top of the line features and benefits that make you want to give them a try anyway. 

    Encrypted Connection

    The most basic feature of any VPN is that it provides you with an encrypted connection that makes it more difficult for any third-parties to identify you based on your search history. This not only offers additional layers of protection for you, the user, but it makes it possible to bypass geo-restrictions and other walls that infringe on our right to privacy and limitless internet access. 

    In some cases, you might not be able to access websites like Netflix and Youtube based on your location and what wifi network you’re hooked up to. Hotspot Shield makes it possible for you to bypass those restrictions by encrypting your IP address and making it appear like you’re somewhere else. 

    Remote Security 

    Another reason you might want to use a VPN is if you’re on a public network. Many people work remotely, and that can lead you to coworking spaces, coffee shops, and libraries. Here, malicious attackers can monitor your browsing and prey on you until you make the right move. 

    If you’re working on your computer for business, you might have personally identifiable information about yourself or your clients that you want to protect. Adding a VPN provides an additional security layer and makes it almost impossible for people to break it and see what you’re doing. 

    Malware Protection 

    If you choose to go with Hotspot Shield VPNs premium plan, you’ll get access to their malware protection program as well. This alerts you whenever you visit a site that they’ve detected malware on. It will block the site to help protect you from phishing and spam. 

    This factor is also important because phishing is another way that malicious attackers can access your information. You may not even realize it’s happening because you’re browsing a normal looking website. While you’re doing that, the software is running through your computer, trying to soak up any information it can to steal from you. Hotspot Shield helps prevent this from happening. 

    Hydra Protocol 

    hotspot shield features

    So far, we’ve been hitting you with mostly negative news regarding Hotspot Shield, its company, and their whole suite of products, but it’s time we turned that around. Hotspot Shield claims that they’re the fastest VPN in the world, and it’s all due to something called Catapult Hydra Protocol

    According to the company, they’ve officially cracked the code that solves latency and speed issues compared to other encryption protocols. You’ve likely heard of OpenVPN or IPSec. Those are the protocols we are used to seeing, and we recommend that you choose VPNs that use them. 

    The only way to know if Hydra is that fast is to test it out and see for ourselves. We found that Hotspot Shield is very fast, whether you’re streaming, torrenting, or whatever it is you want to do. 

    hotspot shield hydra protocol

    Hotspot Shield has an average speed loss of about 5% when you’re operating on the closest servers. Most VPNs automatically connect you to one of the closest servers, but this VPN always connects you to a US server. The company recommends that you pick up a server close to your physical location. 

    We noticed in our research that most people using Hotspot Shield experienced download speeds of between 80-90Mbps when connecting to a local server.

    Something that really impresses us is the international server speed. If you connect to a server outside of your home country, you should naturally expect a more significant loss in speeds, but they’re not nearly as bad as we would expect. 

    For example, a test performed in the United States from a person based in the UK received a 79Mbps download and 43Mbps upload speed. That’s a loss of approximately 17%, which is incredibly impressive. 

    Best of all, they’re reliable, and the speeds seem to maintain fast and consistent across all tests. If you’re looking for one of the fastest VPNs on the market right now, Hotspot Shield is definitely leading the pack. 

    How Secure is Catapult Hydra?

    So we know that it’s fast, but how secure is this protocol compared to the industry standards? It’s a little unnerving to trust something you’ve never heard of, especially when the recommended protocols work so well already. Why fix something that isn’t broken? 

    Although you have no choice but to pick Catapult Hydra, it has over 650 million users, so they have to be doing something right. We found some information about this protocol on their website

    “AnchorFree used to use standard IPSec and OpenVPN protocols to power Hotspot Shield but found major performance and latency challenges with it; therefore, we created our own proprietary Catapult Hydra to address the issues of VPN latency.

    Catapult Hydra uses different algorithms to establish the VPN tunnel, perform authentication, establish client connections, and exchange the tunnel’s payload data. This results in significant performance advantages, such as:

    • Connection to a VPN server is established much faster;
    • Time to first byte for each client connection inside the tunnel saves 1.2 RTTs
    • Less data is transferred inside the tunnel
    • Connection speed for long-distance connections is 2.4x faster than for OpenVPN tunnel between the same client and server

    Our proprietary VPN protocol significantly improves performance over long-distance connections.”

    With a little more digging, we found that Catapult Hydra uses 128-bit AES encryption and 2048-bit RSA certificates. This encryption is a bit disappointing because 256-bit encryption is pretty much the standard at this point and usually what we see from their competitors. It’s clear that they put speed over privacy. 

    Another big issue is the fact that its proprietary technology, so you have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes. That’s why we prefer OpenVPN because it’s an open-source product so anyone can inspect and improve the code. 

    With Catapult Hydra, independent security experts are left in the dust. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been evaluated and tested by security organizations; it just means there isn’t the same level of transparency that we’re used to. 

    Kill Switch 

    Most VPNs come with a kill switch, and Hotspot Shield offers one as well. The goal of a kill switch is to do the following: 

    • Disconnect from the internet in the event that you lose connection to the VPN
    • Prevent your DNS from leaking if you lose connection
    • Add an extra layer of security in case of emergency 

    Even though Hotspot Shield offers this, we do have a few issues with it. First, their kill switch is only available on the Windows app. If you’re using Hotspot Shield for macOS, you’re out of luck. 

    A kill switch is not a debatable feature, it’s a necessity, and it’s something that almost every VPN offers. 

    To make matters even worse, the kill switch doesn’t kick on automatically when you change servers, which leaves your true IP address open each time you change. It’s standard practice to switch servers frequently to make it more difficult to track you down, and Hotspot Shield certainly doesn’t make it easy for you to do that. 

    DNS Leak Protection 

    Some VPNs have issues where the user’s actual DNS gets leaked. When there are gaps in the code and openings in the development of the product, it’s easy for malicious attackers or third-parties to find their way in and play on those loopholes. 

    Hotspot Shield does not use IPv6 or WebRTC leak protection, which is the standard, so if you’re concerned about your privacy with this VPN, you’ll want to disable these in your browser. 

    Domain Bypass 

    Sometimes there are websites that you’ll want to let pass through the VPN because you can’t access it otherwise. Banking websites, financial sites, and even some streaming sites might allow you to use them as long as you’re not using a VPN. If that’s the case, you can use Hotspot Shield’s domain bypass feature to let those sites through. 

    We usually refer to this as “split tunneling,” but it seems like this VPN likes to do everything differently, so they came up with their own name for it. It doesn’t appear that the domain bypass feature is any different than your standard split tunneling.

    Simultaneous Connections 

    Simultaneous connections refer to how many devices you can use simultaneously with the purchase of one VPN client. Some don’t provide any limits, while others have strict rules regarding how many devices you can use. 

    Hotspot Shield allows you to use up to five devices with the purchase of one VPN subscription. Five is not a great number because we’ve also seen some offer seven devices, but five should be enough for most users. 

    If you’re using the VPN in your home, you would be able to have an encrypted connection for your computer, tablet, and three smartphones, so it should be enough for most people.

    That said, this would be a great opportunity for Hotspot Shield to step up to the plate and knock it out of the park, but they seem to fall short once again. 

    Supported devices

    hotspot vpn devices

    Hotspot Shield is compatible with all your major devices, including Mac, iOS, Windows, and Android. With the paid plan, you get access to five devices, and you will find downloadable apps for the following: 

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Amazon Fire TV
    • Android TV
    • Linux

    It’s a nice list of native apps, and it makes it simple to download and get started with the VPN. Some require you to install the app on some of these devices manually, so it’s nice to see that they offer an app for the most common options. 

    In addition to native apps, there’s Hotspot Shield Chrome extensions and one for Firefox. 

    Now let’s talk routers. Having a VPN that is compatible with routers is nice because it allows you to encrypt and secure more of your devices at once as long as you can set it all up. 

    So, by having router support from your VPN, it means that you can use it with gaming systems like Nintendo Switch and Playstation. It also means that you can connect way more devices with a single subscription because everything that runs through that router will receive VPN encryption. They provide router installation on: 

    • Asuswrt
    • Merlin
    • GL.iNet
    • DD-WRT
    • FreshTomato

    While Hotspot Shield does provide a decent list of supported devices, we’re still missing things like Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Windows phones, Kindles, and Blackberries. 

    Server Network 

    hotspot shield locations

    More is always better right? More servers in more locations usually means that the VPN provider is more spread out, which results in faster speeds and a better experience, but that’s not always the case. A larger network of servers means more maintenance, more loopholes, and likely more issues. 

    Hotspot Shield’s server network has 3,200 servers across 82 different countries. While this is a huge network, it’s not the largest we’ve ever seen. 

    What’s important is that all their servers are well spread out across the globe, so no matter where you are, you can find a nearby server, which means a solid connection and faster speeds. Even when you’re in less populated locations like Egypt, you’re still likely to find a close connection. 

    In the US, you can choose between 27 different cities from coast to coast. This is great for people in the US because there are plenty of options and city locations to choose. They also offer city locations in Australia, Canada, and Italy. If you’re anywhere else on the planet, you’ll choose based on the country because they only have one location. 

    The number of servers that you see may vary from time to time when you sign on, but for the most part, it’s pretty consistent across the board. They provide a mixture of virtual and physical servers, but they don’t reveal any specific numbers. 

    Unfortunately, that’s not the most transparent thing we’d like to see because some VPNs lie about their servers’ locations, but you could easily prove it with a quick test. When tested, Hotspot Shields servers checked out, and it doesn’t appear that they’re lying about any of their locations. 

    Everything we’ve discussed in this section applies to the paid version of the app only. If you’re using the free VPN, you have to connect to the US servers. You also don’t get a choice as to which server you connect to, it likely connects you to the closest one, but it would be nice to know what the city-level connection is. 

    For Streaming

    hotspot shield streaming

    One of the number one reasons people turn to VPN services is to bypass geo-restrictions for streaming purposes. We took a deep dive to see if Hotspot Shield makes it easier for you to watch Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+. 

    What we found is that most people have no problem bypassing the restrictions with this VPN. They do not provide dedicated servers like some of the best VPN services, so it will take a little trial and error. 

    That said, if it works, it works. There are more than 25 city locations in the United States, so if you can’t bypass the restriction with one of them, try a different one, and you’ll eventually find one that works. If you’re trying to access different libraries outside the US, you can do that for the following on Netflix: 

    • UK
    • Japan
    • Canada
    • Brazil
    • Australia

    One thing that is very pleasing about Hotspot Shield is the download speeds. The fast speeds make streaming much more enjoyable than some of the other VPNs we’ve reviewed. It’s not enough to be able to bypass geo-restrictions if you’re constantly waiting for the shows to load; Hotspot Shield ensures you don’t have that problem. 

    Keep in mind that this is only available on the paid plan. If you try to access Netflix using one of their free servers, it will take you to a paywall and prompt you to sign up for the premium plan. 

    If there was one thing we’d like to see them improve upon, it would be with dedicated streaming servers that make it easier to locate them faster. If you’re trying to watch a TV show or movie, the last thing you want to do is shop around for 30 minutes trying to figure out which one will work. 

    Dedicated streaming servers will tell you exactly what servers are currently working for streaming, so you don’t have to test them out. 

    For Torrenting 

    Torrenting is another huge factor we look for in all our VPN reviews, and that’s because it’s highly-desired by users. Hotspot Shield offers unrestricted access to P2P servers on their premium service only. 

    One thing that surprises us is that Hotspot Shield openly endorses torrenting and even provides guides on how to do it anonymously. This is surprising for a US-based VPN service because most of the others condemn it or simply stay quiet. 

    Now, it’s important to remember all the factors we’ve discussed so far when we think about torrenting. You need to make sure you have the right protection, so you need DNS leak protection, IP anonymity, and fast download speeds. You get fast speeds, but the jury is still out on the security aspect of this VPN. 

    The kill switch is a nice feature to help protect against leaks, but we dislike the fact that it doesn’t turn on automatically if you switch servers. 

    Overall, we don’t think we would recommend using Hotspot Shield for torrenting because their privacy policy is a little too sketchy, and we’re not confident that they’re not logging your information for malicious purposes. They have a history that doesn’t make us feel too good about it. 

    Hotspot Shield VPN Alternatives 

    One of the best ways to figure out if you have the best VPN on the market is to take a look at some of the other options and see how it compares. We’re taking a deep dive into three other VPN providers to see how they stack up against Hotspot Shield. 

    NordVPN 

    nordvpn

    NordVPN is a huge name in internet privacy, and you likely see this VPN advertised all over the internet. The company holds jurisdiction in Panama, which offers them a few luxuries based on the laws there. 

    First, laws there state that companies can only collect information when they have the consent of the owner and a clearly-defined purpose for having that data. When they collect it, it is still considered confidential and must be stored securely for up to seven years. Lastly, companies must obtain permission from the owner to transfer that information across borders. 

    The government in this country does a nice job of protecting users’ privacy, and that’s why we typically look for VPNs outside of the United States and other countries with strict data laws. 

    As for features, they offer the following: 

    • Kill switch
    • NordLynx
    • Double VPN
    • Onion over VPN
    • Dedicated IP
    • CyberSec
    • DNS leak test
    • Port forwarding
    • Smart DNS

    Should we go on? Because there’s more. 

    As you can see, NordVPN offers a lot more features than Hotspot Shield so let’s break down a few of these that might not be as clear. 

    NordLynx 

    This product is Nord’s attempt at improving their speeds. It’s a communications protocol similar to WireGuard that has a smaller codebase making it easier to maintain and faster to operate. 

    When you have less code, it makes the process of encryption faster, but we’re thinking something entirely different here too. It also makes the protocol much more secure, and that was one of our biggest issues with Catapult Hydra. While Hydra makes Hotspot Shield faster, we think it’s more vulnerable because it’s a closed-source protocol, and no one has any idea what they’re doing with it. 

    Double VPN 

    A double VPN is another feature that Hotspot Shield doesn’t offer, but it’s essentially a second server that acts as a backup. If someone is trying to snoop on you and figure out what you’re doing, now they’ll not only have to get through one encrypted server, they’ll have to get through two, which makes it twice as hard and it’ll take twice as long. 

    Onion over VPN 

    TOR is the browser with the highest privacy level, and it helps you maintain the highest level of privacy, but some VPNs don’t allow you to access this because it’s too risky. That’s the case with Hotspot Shield. 

    Hotspot Shield makes it difficult to get onto TOR by not providing dedicated servers for the browser. Based on our research, many users say that it’s so slow that it’s almost impossible to use, but if you’re seriously concerned about security and you need top of the line protection, you should be willing to wait. 

    Pricing 

    If we’re trying to rub salt into a wound here, this is how we’ll do it. Hotspot Shield is actually more expensive than Nord too. If you pay month-to-month with Hotspot, you’ll pay $12.99 per month, which is pretty expensive for something as limited as this. 

    NordVPN is $11.95 if you pay month-to-month, and that payment drops down to $5.75 for an annual subscription. Hotspot Shield is $7.99 per month if you go with the annual subscription, so it’s more than $2.00 per month for a fraction of the benefits. 

    We would suggest going with NordVPN over Hotspot Shield, hands down. 

    Surfshark 

    surfshark

    Now we’ll make a comparison to Surfshark to see if Hotspot Shield can regain our trust. Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands, a great jurisdiction because they don’t have any data retention laws. 

    They’re also super transparent about what information they keep, and when you compare it to Hotspot Shield, there’s no comparison.

    All Surfshark keeps from you is performance data, unsuccessful connection attempts, and frequency of use. Now that’s a no-logging policy. Let’s take a look at some of their features: 

    RAM-only Servers 

    RAM-based servers are a nice feature because it means that all the information stored on the servers is wiped clean each time they’re shut off. So, even if the company was logging information, every time they shut the servers off, that information is gone. This feature is the ultimate in privacy, and it’s quite risky for the VPN provider. 

    Camouflage Mode 

    One of the biggest issues in bypassing firewalls and geo-restrictions is the fact that streaming services and other apps can tell when you’re using a VPN or a proxy. They’ve set up blockers to prevent you from doing that. 

    Surfshark allows you to use obfuscated servers when accessing the internet, which makes it harder for the sites to know that you’re using a VPN. 

    Surfshark also offers the following: 

    • Kill switch
    • Double VPN
    • Split tunneling
    • Industry-leading protocols
    • Streaming
    • P2P torrenting

    Best of all, Surfshark’s pricing is still a few pennies less than Hotspot Shield. They offer all the benefits of Hotspot Shield with improved security, added features, fast speeds, and a lower price. Go with Surfshark over Hotspot Shield. 

    Hotspot Shield vs. ExpressVPN 

    expressvpn

    Our last comparison is with ExpressVPN. ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands as well, and it’s a very privacy-friendly location. The country protects its users’ privacy and believes that everyone has the right to anonymous internet usage. 

    As for features, here’s some of what they offer: 

    • RAM-only servers
    • Kill switch
    • Private DNS
    • Split tunneling
    • Built-in speed test
    • Compatibility with Smart TVs, Apple TV, and Roku
    • Fast streaming

    We’ve discussed most of these features already, but the one we want to touch on is smart TV compatibility. One of the biggest downsides of Hotspot Shield is the fact that you can set it up to your router, but it’s still not compatible with Apple TV, Roku, or Chromecast. You’ll get that benefit with ExpressVPN.

    They also offer a Private DNS, which means that the VPN hosts its own DNS on all of their servers. So, all of your information stays on the servers when processing, so you get the ultimate protection against leaks and faster download speeds. 

    So, it’s clear that ExpressVPN offers more features and improved security, but what’s the price like? 

    Once again, at $12.95, it’s a few cents cheaper than Hotspot Shield. We’re amazed that Hotspot Shield is at the top of the price range when it comes to VPNs, yet it offers so little. We would recommend choosing ExpressVPN over Hotspot Shield. 

    Reddit About Hotspot Shield 

    One of the greatest places to go to learn about VPNs is Reddit. If you’re looking for an unbiased discussion from real people trying to stay private online, Reddit is the place to go. We hopped over there to see what users are saying about Hotspot Shield, and what we found wasn’t too surprising. 

    One user asked a question about whether or not the free version of Hotspot Shield is secure; here are a few responses: 

    “Never trust a free version of any VPN. High chance of your data being stolen.”

    “Hotspot Shield is most emphatically not secure. For whatever reason, it does not actually mask your IP. While other VPN providers will protect you against websites using Javascript to determine your IP address, Hotspot Shield does not.”

    “I don’t recommend using a free VPN provider; they have zero incentive to protect your privacy.” 

    “I wouldn’t trust one to be able to provide security, upkeep, or be able to defend against legal/other threats/etc.”

    These are really good points and concerning to anyone who might use Hotspot Shield’s free software. How can they possibly develop the infrastructure needed to protect you when you’re not even paying for the service? Other VPNs like Astrill VPN swear against offering free plans because it ruins the legitimacy of private networks. 

    Even when we read about the paid plan, much of the conversations are the same. Many people are concerned about data mining and security, and they recommend staying away from Hotspot Shield Free. 

    Hotspot Shield Free VPN

    Let’s talk a little more now about pricing and package options. You have the choice to sign up for the basic or premium option with Hotspot Shield. Their basic plan is a Hotspot Shield free VPN proxy that they claim is fast, secure, and with no “browsing activity logs.” 

    That’s a red flag to us because they’re overly descriptive with their policy, and instead of saying “no logs,” it’s not browsing activity logs. Basically, they’re saying we’re not logging your browsing activity, but we are logging a whole bunch of other stuff. Great! 

    When you sign up for the free plan, it comes with a lot of restrictions too. 

    You get 500MB of data per day, which is enough for half of an episode of Shameless on Netflix. Plus, you don’t get to choose your server; you have to let them pick for you. 

    If you even try to watch something on Netflix, you’ll get hit with a paywall, and the custom apps for Fire TV Stick and Android TV aren’t available. You can’t torrent either. 

    Best of all, you get hit with ads left and right on the mobile app, which is not something we’re comfortable with when dealing with internet privacy. Selling your information to advertisers doesn’t exactly scream privacy. 

    Last but not least, the free plan does not come with live customer service, so you’ll have to send them an email or open a ticket. 

    So, it’s safe to say we don’t recommend using Hotspot Shields free plan, especially when other VPNs like Windscribe and ProtonVPN offer such great free options

    Hotspot Shield Premium vs. Basic 

    hotspot shield monthly

    Now that you understand everything that the free plan “doesn’t” offer let’s look at what Hotspot Shield Elite does offer. 

    Month-to-month: $12.99 per month

    Annually: $7.99 per month

    Three-year: $2.99 per month

    Benefits: 

    • Unlimited data
    • Optimized video streaming
    • HD streaming
    • Access to all servers
    • Five simultaneous devices
    • 24/7 live support

    Other Pango Products 

    As mentioned, Pango offers a suite of products to help you with your digital security. Here are some of them:

    1Password – Password manager that helps you create secure passwords as well as store them, so you never forget. 

    Robo Shield – Prevents robocalls and spam from attempting to steal information from you. This app is only available on Apple products in the US and Canada. 

    Identity Guard – Monitors your financial information 24/7 to look out for fraudulent behaviors. 

    Summary 

    So, what do you think about this VPN? Do you think you could forgive the blemished history, deplorable free plan, DNS leaks, and poor privacy policy in exchange for fast speeds? 

    Sure, if you’re not doing anything that requires privacy, we could forgive it too. Overall, based on this Hotspot Shield review, we would not recommend this VPN to anyone because there are better options out there that will offer everything you need, plus fast speeds, for a lower price. 

    FAQ 

    Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently asked questions from around the internet regarding Hotspot Shield. 

    Tim Robinson

    Tim Robinson

    I research, write, and publish about VPN and other privacy tools.

    My first VPN setup was over ten years ago, and since then, it is an essential part of my internet experience. I surf the internet, stream, and work with a VPN.

    Tim Robinson

    Tim Robinson

    I research, write, and publish about VPN and other privacy tools.

    My first VPN setup was over ten years ago, and since then, it is an essential part of my internet experience. I surf the internet, stream, and work with a VPN.

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