The way we’re doing this review on Hotspot Shield today is because we know that choosing your VPN provider isn’t easy. The multitude of players on the market is not always obvious, especially for the most novice among us, to know the best solution to protect you.
So we’re going to do a Hotspot Shield test to see what its different performance is in terms of security and speed, streaming, etc. Without waiting, let’s get back to the heart of the matter!
What is Hotspot Shield?
Hotspot Shield is a Virtual Private Network provider, i.e. software that allows you to protect your data when you connect to the internet and make you anonymous.
To sum up, in a few words, you will connect to one of the vendor’s servers, which will allow the software to encrypt your login data. They will no longer be accessible from then on, and no one will be able to trace them back to you: you will be totally anonymous on the internet.
If the supplier does not position itself among the largest and best on the market, it has often suffered from a lack of performance in terms of safety and speeds. Two essential elements to take into account when choosing. But what is the solution proposed by Hotspot Shield in 2021? That is what we are going to see today.
- Works with Netflix
- The simplicity of use and interface
- Bypasses censorship in China
- Free offer
- Installation process
- Keeping some data
- Customer support
- Very high pricing
How do I install the app?
Installing a VPN is quite simple:
it’s software that you’ll be able to find either on the vendor’s website or in the AppStore/Google PlayStore of your choice. It depends mostly on which device you want to install it on.
Regarding the installation, we personally used the version developed for macOS, which allowed us to test on our computer. But you can also install it on your phone or tablet.
To download on Mac, you will download the app via the AppStore. It’s quite rare to see this type of installation at the suppliers, so it surprised us. But you’ll see, Hotspot Shield totally wants it.
Hotspot Shield offer: week offered
We will have the opportunity to discuss this in the rest of this review on Hotspot Shield, but the provider offers to test the solution for a week so that you can make up your own mind. If we were delighted by this proposal at first, we quickly discovered that the company is slightly dishonest at this level.
Indeed, the procedure is rather complicated if you want to benefit from the free week, especially if you install the VPN on Mac. The provider goes through the AppStore platform to have their Virtual Private Network installed, and therefore accesses your credit card (which is registered to your account).
If it is clearly stated that there is an automatic renewal of the subscription at the end of the trial week (on the one-year subscription), the procedure to cancel this purchase is not explained. However, it is rather complex: it is not possible to do it directly on the provider’s website; it is imperative to go on iTunes or the AppStore in the settings.
To help you, and if you’re not wasting time if you’re in this situation, here’s how to do it: you can go straight to the store tab of your iTunes app (or AppStore) and then go to the subscription tab. You will then be able to cancel your subscription.
Be careful to do this well. Otherwise, you will be automatically charged a 1-year subscription when your week is spent. If you want a real free VPN, look here.
How do I use VPN?
The use of a VPN is rather simple. Once the app is installed on your device, all you have to do is fill in your account information (address and password) and press the login button.
By default, you’ll be connected to the “most suitable” server, i.e. the one that will allow you to access the best speeds and the most optimal security based on your actual location.
But of course, you can change servers and choose directly which country you want to connect to. All you have to do is press the small globe icon at the top right.
Speed is important when choosing a Virtual Private Network. Indeed, if protection is effective but does not allow you to do all the activities you want (including downloading and streaming), it’s still a shame.
To ensure that the provider will offer you appropriate speeds, we have conducted a Hotspot Shield test via the speedtest.net website. Here are the results we have achieved.
Speed without VPN
To begin with, we need a test that will allow us to compare different servers. To do this, we carried out a test based on our connection without any protection.
The speeds are exciting, but we must not forget that in this case, our protection against potential threats on the internet is meagre.
It is normal to drop in speeds when opting for a VPN because connecting to a remote server and encrypting the data inevitably have an impact. But what you need to look at is how important the drop in these speeds is and how it will impact your daily activities.
The speed with a server in France
The first test is carried out with a server located in France.
The speeds were divided by about 2. So it’s a huge drop, unfortunately. But to get a global opinion on Hotspot Shield, you have to look at other servers.
The speed with a server in the United States
We did several other tests, including this one with a server in the United States.
The proposed speeds are generally rather average: they won’t prevent you from downloading or watching streaming content, but you’ll probably encounter longer loads and difficulties in having continuous High Definition.
Hotspot Shield testing for streaming
We couldn’t review Hotspot Shield without mentioning the provider’s streaming features. In fact, you must choose suitable software in case you plan to unlock geo-blocked content and access Netflix catalogues and foreign channels, for example.
So we looked at whether it was possible to access Netflix US by having the VPN enabled. And it’s possible, as you can see in this picture.
You’ll be able to watch your exclusive content without encountering the proxy error so feared by platform users.
In the same way, you will be able to access all the foreign channels you want and see French TV live abroad. All you need to do is choose a server in the country of your choice.
For download, it’s also possible with the provider: in addition to the slowdowns you’ll probably know (we were talking about it in the previous part), you should be able to download all the content you want!
The security provided must be optimal. Indeed, every flaw, no matter how small, is fundamental since it endangers your personal data and does not allow you to anonymize on the internet.
So we reviewed the proposed solution to see what its strengths are.
Security starts with quality encryption. At this level, our opinion on Hotspot Shield is positive since it uses AES 256-bit encryption, which is high-quality military encryption.
The purpose of a VPN is to hide your online identity. And for that, your IP address must be nowhere to be found. So we did a Hotspot Shield test to see if the proposed solution actually hides your identity.
On the ipleak.net website, you can see your login information. Here, we have not connected the VPN: our IP address and location are not protected at all; it’s normal.
For this second test, we logged on to one of the vendor’s servers: the one located in the United States. And the good news is that our IP address has been completely changed. There is no longer any mention of the old address or our actual location.
In addition to your email address and banking information, which are used during your subscription, several information is kept:
- The number of data you’ve exchanged
- How long you logged into the VPN
- The device you logged on
- Your location is not accurate with your IP address but with an approximate version of latitude/longitude to determine which area you were in.
As you will have understood, even if the most important information (your IP address and your activities performed once the VPN connection is activated) are not kept, a certain amount of data is retained. Nothing serious, but still.
That’s a shame because you can’t really say that the provider is “no log” and that third parties can potentially hack data. The best protection would have been to keep nothing.
Does circumventing censorship work?
Censorship is still important in many countries around the world. China is often used as a reference, as government practices are particularly repressive, but there are many others: Turkey, Russia, Iran, etc.
If you are travelling to one of these countries, using a better VPN is essential to continue accessing the sites you probably use daily. Indeed, all social networking sites (Facebook, Messenger, Instagram) and messaging sites (Gmail, Skype, WhatsApp …) are inaccessible.
But not all providers allow censorship to be circumvented, as different governments have blacklisted some.
Regarding Hotspot Shield, we are quite satisfied because it allows you to access all the content you want without any problems. A good point so if you are planning to travel in the coming months.
As seen above, however, beware of the data that will be backed up on your uses!
The network of countries and servers
The network of countries and servers is an important point because it determines the number of countries you will be able to access and the servers’ saturation that you will have to face.
Our opinion on Hotspot Shield on this subject is quite positive since you will access your subscription once your subscription is taken to more than 3200 servers in more than 80 countries of the world. It is an extensive and diverse network that will adapt to your needs.
If you’re looking to access a particular country, don’t hesitate to look directly at whether one or more servers are available!
Hotspot Shield customer support test
As for the customer support offered, there is, as usual, a space with installation guides and a FAQ page to answer the most common questions.
It is also possible to send an email/ticket to support teams for a more detailed response.
But unfortunately, no online chat to answer you quickly or guide you in your research … Finally, you have to have a subscription to Pango to access this feature (and therefore have subscribed to the Premium offer only; it does not work for the Basic offer). So if you want to make your own opinion on Hotspot Shield by testing the Basic formula, you won’t have access to it. Ditto, if you have any questions before you commit…
It’s a shame because the support offered is fragile compared to what can be found in other competitors, such as ExpressVPN.
Offers and pricing
We come to the part of this review on Hotspot Shield on pricing. You’ll find two offers: a Basic subscription (a free offer, but limited to 500 Mb per day, only a few servers and non-optimal security) and a Premium subscription.
It is very convenient to get an idea of the operation and the interface regarding the free VPN. Although very limited in functionality, it will allow you to discover the software before committing to the longer term.
For the premium subscription, you can choose between a monthly or yearly subscription. The latter will save you nearly 40%.
But in general, prices are much higher than those of the market. So it’s far from the best value for money.
To finish this review on Hotspot Shield, let’s look at the features offered by the provider.
The number of simultaneous connections
With a subscription, you’ll be able to use your VPN protection simultaneously on 5 devices. If you are far from the unlimited simultaneous uses of some providers, it’s still interesting, especially if you want to protect your phone, but also your computer, tablet, etc.
No problem at this level: you can install the VPN on all devices of your choice. Whether you’re on Windows, Android, iOS or macOS, there’s going to be a corresponding version. Note that it is even possible to install the solution directly on your router, to protect all devices connected to it automatically.
It is also possible to install the VPN on your Chrome browser to protect all your internet searches.
While some of the advantages are obvious, such as the number of servers and the possibility of circumventing censorship in China, it is difficult for us to ignore security breaches, which are paramount.
In general, other competitors in the market offer much more efficient solutions, and more often for more attractive prices (we think in particular of ExpressVPN and NordVPN). Then why pay more for less?