Hotspot Shield is the most famous product launched by AnchorFree, a Californian company that has more than 650 million users in 200 countries. AnchorFree was founded back in 2005 and has since received numerous praises from the likes of Forbes, Fast Company, Fortune, Entrepreneur, and many other major publications.
The most prominent advantage of Hotspot Shield VPN software lies in its seamless operation and incredible connection speeds. If you want to learn all about its features and see our test results, keep reading this honest Hotspot Shield review to find out whether this software meets your needs.
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Speed & Performance
During our testing phase, Hotspot Shield definitely confirmed its status as one of the fastest VPN services out there. We were able to connect to any server in a matter of seconds and did not experience any disconnects or huge performance issues. Having said that, certain servers did exhibit diminished performance on occasion, probably due to overcrowding.
Our testing team located in Belgrade, Serbia (Europe) tested 18 Hotspot Shield servers over a period of one week to determine the discrepancies between our benchmark speeds and said server locations. Oddly enough, we recorded the best results in New York, which augmented our original download speed by 4.06%. VPN services that enhance your speed instead of lowering it are definitely rare nowadays, which makes Hotspot Shield all the more impressive. We also had excellent results on servers in Mexico, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Stockholm, Auckland, and Hong Kong.
Our speed tests usually show subpar results in India, but Hotspot Shield managed to retain 65.51% of our original speed on its server in Chennai. Our lowest speed was recorded on the Melbourne server, which managed to retain only 33.42% of our benchmark download speed.
|Location||Ping (ms)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)|
|New York, US||131||49.78||3.45|
|San Francisco, US||194||30.34||1.12|
Hotspot Shield does not feature a wide platform coverage compared to some of the most popular VPN services out there. It has native apps for Windows (Vista, XP, 7, 8, 10), Mac (Sierra, High Sierra, Yosemite, El Capitan, and more), Android (Jelly Bean, KitKat, Nougat, Marshmallow, Oreo, and more), and iOS (iPhone 7, 8, X, and other models). The company also provides its users with a browser extension for Google Chrome.
Since Hotspot Shield sets its settings dynamically, you cannot configure the software manually on any devices it does not support. This includes Android TV box, Apple and Smart TV, Chromecast, Kodi, Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Windows phones, Linux OS, rooted or jailbroken devices, Kindle devices, and game consoles.
Hotspot Shield currently operates more than 1,800 servers spread across 80+ countries, which is a pretty impressive server network that can rival some of the top VPN products out there. During our testing phase, we had no issues connecting to any of the provided locations since the client usually got the job done in mere seconds.
Hotspot Shield does not provide static IPs at the moment. For now, the software assigns different IP addresses based on your geographical location.
Apart from its vast network of servers, the company also guarantees unlimited speeds, bandwidth, and server switching. However, since Hotspot Shield is one of the rare services that offer a free version of its software, non-premium users have a bandwidth limit capped at 500MB per day.
Premium users can establish up to 5 simultaneous connections with a single Hotspot Shield account, which is more than enough to guarantee no overlaps between your favorite devices and platforms.
Safety & Security
Instead of going with the conventional connection protocols, Hotspot Shield implements its proprietary solution called Catapult Hydra, which is also used for VPN services provided by BitDefender, Cheetah Mobile, McAfee, and many others.
Catapult Hydra utilizes TLS-based security that complies with NIST recommendations. It implements TLS 1.2 handshake paired with RSA-2048 and Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman algorithm for ephemeral key exchange. This basically means that Hotspot Shield comes with perfect forward secrecy that generates a new key for every online session and deletes it once your session is over. This is an excellent security option since even if somebody manages to obtain your encryption key, it will be rendered useless the moment you finish your current session.
Hotspot Shield encrypts your traffic with AES-256 cipher, which is the most secure option currently out there. When VPN providers mention things like “military-grade” or “bank-grade” encryption, this is what they are talking about. Note that some outdated parts of the official website still claim that AnchorFree uses AES-128 cipher for Hotspot Shield, but that is no longer true.
Hotspot Shield will also protect you when connected to exposed public Wi-Fi networks and its latest iteration eliminates any exposure to malware or phishing attempts.
Lastly, the software comes with a reliable automatic killswitch feature that can be turned on or off in your client.
Logging & Privacy
- Information provided by you – Account information (name, email, username, and password), billing information (billing name, billing contact details, and payment instrument details), identity verification information (email address, phone number), communications and submissions (information provided of your own accord when communicating with company representatives).
- Information collected when you use Hotspot Shield – Usage information (bandwidth usage, session duration), device information (device identifiers, device type and settings, browser type, operating system, network information, and application version), diagnostic information (device and app info, referring URLs, and timestamps), and location information (in order to connect you to the fastest server for your location).
- Information provided by third parties – This includes referrals, threat information, and business customers.
The company will use the collected information to provide, maintain, support, and troubleshoot its service, process payment requests, communicate with existing and prospective users, improve its service and develop new features, prevent harm or liability, and achieve legal compliance.
At any given moment, you can access and demand a copy of your data as well as complete information regarding the collected information. You can also withdraw any consent you might have given in the past and demand total data erasure.
Even though the official website clearly states that you can stream a wide variety of geo-locked platforms, that was not exactly the case during our testing circuit. Granted, we were able to access Netflix UK, Germany, and Canada, but the Japanese and US versions remained out of our reach. The server performance was also rather inconsistent with frequent buffering and connectivity issues. On the other hand, we did manage to unlock Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Crunchyroll. If you are purchasing a VPN solely to unblock Netflix US and ensure some extra security while doing it, Hotspot Shield might not be the best option for you.
AnchorFree does allow P2P and torrenting, but given its logging practices and current location, we would advise against any illegal activities that include copyrighted content. Having said that, the software does provide a neat protection package that should keep you safe from any potential attacks within your P2P network.
Plans & Pricing
As we already mentioned in this Hotspot Shield review, there is a free and premium version of the service.
The free subscription comes with a lot of limitations, but we are talking about a completely free VPN, so it sounds pretty fair. Your daily bandwidth cap is 500MB, you can use it only on one device at any given moment, and you are limited to the US location. Additionally, you will be served with ads during usage and you will not have access to Hotspot Shield 24/7 customer support.
The premium subscription can be purchased for periods of 1 month ($12.99 per month), 1 year ($7.99 per month; $95.88 billed every year), and 3 years ($2.99 per month; billed $107.64 every 3 years). Apart from unlimited bandwidth, access to the complete server network, and 24/7 customer support, the premium plan also allows you to establish up to 5 simultaneous connections. Premium users never receive any ads and gain access to a password manager called 1Password completely free of charge.
The accepted payment methods include PayPal and credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB, and Diners Club). Every purchase comes with a no-nonsense 45-day money-back guarantee.
Hotspot Shield offers 24/7 customer support to its premium users. You can either submit a support ticket on the official website or access the live chat feature from your client. However, once we tried using the live chat, we were stuck on the perpetual loading screen. We waited for more than 2 hours for something to happen, but it never did. In other words, during our testing, we were unable to use the live chat in spite of our premium subscription.
Finally, if everything else fails, you can also contact AnchorFree directly using the phone numbers provided on the company website.
Hotspot Shield Pros & Cons
As we wrap up this Hotspot Shield review, here’s a quick overview of the features that wowed us and the aspects of the service that could use some improvement.
- Covers the most popular platforms
- Proprietary connection protocol (Catapult Hydra)
- 1,800+ servers in 80+ countries
- Solid encryption
- Impressive server network
- Free version available
- Up to 5 simultaneous connections
- Automatic killswitch
- Protection against malware and phishing
- 24/7 customer support
- P2P is allowed
- Shaky logging policy
- Located in the US
- Does not work with Netflix US
- Live chat did not work for us