Getting started with HideMan’s free VPN service is extremely straightforward as it doesn’t even require you to register as a user or enter any information about yourself – just click on the Download button and away you go. Even using a less-than-speedy internet connection, the download and installation process took a matter of minutes.
A lightweight app requiring less than 3MB of memory, HideMan VPN won’t take up too much space on your device. Even on the Windows app, the main user interface is tiny but, as the free version offers little customization or even the ability to select your server location, it doesn’t much matter! Basically, all you can do is connect or disconnect anyway so you don’t need a huge, colorful, intuitive interface for that! Like the paid Mobile and Ultimate services, the free app’s tiny main interface is supplemented by additional windows giving various different options.
Having set up HideMan, the next step is to connect to a server. With the free version, a server is automatically selected for you which is extremely limiting given that one of the most useful things about a VPN is being able to travel the world vicariously. Sadly, despite everything seeming to be in working order, when we actually tried to connect nothing happened, although the clock in the corner conscientiously ticked away the remaining minutes of our free VPN coverage.
Investing further by clicking on the Help menu option, it appeared having an antivirus running at the same time could cause the connection problem so, having disabled said antivirus, we gave it another whiter. This proved to be a successful solution insofar as we could then connect, but unsatisfactory in that we had to turn off the firewall and head out into deepest darkest cyberspace without that protection.
At this point, any ingenuity in design comes to an abrupt halt and we’re left with bland black text on an unimaginative grey background. It may not sound like the end of the world but if you take CyberGhost for a test drive, you’ll begin to understand just how much more fun and colorful life with a VPN can be!
In terms of simplicity, HideMan has hit the nail on the head but when it comes to being user-friendly, it’s still got a way to go. Although there is some customization available with HideMan VPN’s paid packages, it’s still pretty limited compared to the competition. While the free hour’s protection is nice, it’s not going to take you very far, especially not if you want to stream from Netflix.
Overall, it’s usable but it’s not fun nor does it offer the same level of accessibility or customization as we’ve come to expect from the best VPNs.
Although some VPNs can give your connection speeds a positive boost, for the most part, VPN users expect some drop in speed when connecting through a VPN. This is due to the encryption process while the improved speeds are usually the result of blocking adverts and other pop-ups. Either way, HideMan VPN’s speeds are average at best and, if you’re using the free version, sluggish at worst.
While it’s great that HideMan VPN supports torrenting, the fact that it does so on such a limited number of servers contributes towards its slow speeds. After all, if all torrenting traffic is being directed through a handful of servers, there’s bound to be some congestion. HideMan’s small server network certainly doesn’t help matters when it comes to providing fast connections and the restrictions on the free plan make for even slower speeds.
With the free HideMan VPN app, the user has no choice over which server to connect to, although one would expect the software to automatically search and connect to the fastest server. This produces speeds of little more than 6Mbps which, while functional for those wanting to stream movies, won’t be up to the task of watching in full HD.
HideMan subscribers definitely get a better deal and speeds of up to 64 Mbps can be expected from most of its European servers. It’s US servers, on the other hand, produced highly varied results but the fastest managed to get up to 50 Mbps. Compared with other VPNs, however, HideMan struggles to compete, and the likes of CyberGhost and NordVPN leave it sinking in their wake.
HideMan’s claims that it can conserve bandwidth by up to 25% by blocking harmful sites and adverts, this isn’t enough to compensate for its below-average speeds. Yes, it’s usable, but if you have no patience with slow downloads, you’d be better off opting for an alternative like ExpressVPN.
There are a variety of different types of logs a VPN may decide to keep, some of which won’t reveal very much about your online activities at all, and some of which could see you end up in hot water. While a lot of VPNs are now trying to prove that they don’t keep any logs at all, HideMan is refreshingly open about its logging policies.
In its FAQ section, however, HideMan declares that these data retention policies apply only to free users and that paid subscribers don’t have to worry about logs at all. Beyond that, HideMan is pretty tight-lipped and more information about exactly how the two different logging systems operate would be both enlightening and welcome.
With its headquarters in the UK, HideMan is required to adhere to UK legislation which includes handing over information to any law enforcement or intelligence agencies when requested. In an effort to maintain privacy, HideMan has a warrant canary page which indicates if any such requests for user data have been submitted. Updated on a regular basis, the warrant canary at least gives users the reassurance that no such requests have been received. On the other hand, a true no-logging VPN has no need for a warrant canary as it has no information to hand over.
If you recall, some years ago when ExpressVPN was requested to hand over logs relating to a suspected criminal, they couldn’t comply because they had no information stored. This is the level of privacy you can expect from the best. HideMan’s logging policy isn’t necessarily a bad thing but you do need to think twice about whether you’re comfortable with the data it’s collecting before signing up.
While some logging may be useful for ensuring service delivery and improving troubleshooting processes, the extent of the information stored by HideMan and that it’s kept for a comparatively long 14-day period suggests it is compromising the privacy of its free users. As for its paid subscribers, there’s simply not enough information available to guarantee they’re enjoying a log-free experience.
The bottom line is that, with some super-fast and powerful no-logging VPNs out there, we can see no reason to opt for one that’s so ambiguous about its commitment to user privacy and its policy of logging.
HideMan has a range of lightweight apps that are compatible with Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows and allows users to connect up to four devices simultaneously. While ExpressVPN is quite stingy in that regard, allowing just three, Surfshark VPN has gone to the other end of the scale by allowing an unlimited number of simultaneous connections. HideMan is, therefore, once again pretty average.
In addition to industry-standard AES-256 encryption, HideMan has introduced a kill switch that will ensure you connect to the internet only via your VPN, and never head out onto a public Wi-Fi connection without protection. HideMan also has an auto-connect option available for those who want it to fire up with their device.
While not the most advanced VPN around, HideMan can be customized according to your individual needs, giving you the capacity to set up proxies, specify the ports used when port forwarding, and activate the kill switch which, on the HideMan interface, is referred to as Connection control.
More advanced users who enjoy tinkering under the hood, so to speak, can also change connection protocols, disable the DNS filter and activate anti-DPI mode. This last feature deflects any efforts to perform deep packet inspection on the traffic inside the encrypted VPN tunnel to create a more secure connection.
While these features are effective, they’re also somewhat outdated and, given that HideMan’s free Windows app hasn’t been updated since 2015, that’s hardly surprising. Unfortunately, with new security threats popping up almost daily, an out-of-date app is a liability. Not only does it mean the app hasn’t been improved in four long years, but it also means that it’s not being patched and may struggle to cope with the latest Windows updates.
It would be nice to be able to say that HideMan’s other apps are more up to date but, sadly, that’s not the case. The newest app available is the Chrome browser extension which was last updated in August 2016! A lot has happened in both the technology and cybersecurity spheres over the past three years so it’s strange that HideMan hasn’t felt the need to improve or tweak its apps in order to keep up with the times.
An increasing number of VPNs are turning to a feature known as split tunneling to improve speeds and give users more control over their own security. This isn’t available with HideMan, however, and all your traffic will pass through the encrypted tunnel, potentially slowing down your online experience even more.
While there’s nothing wrong with a simple VPN, HideMan could incorporate a few more tools into its apps, such as split tunneling, for example, to improve their function. The tools that are available work sufficiently well, although some users may struggle with the kill switch which, like the rest of HideMan, could do with an update. Simple’s fine, but lack of functionality isn’t.
Obviously, the most appealing thing about HideMan is that you get a certain amount of protection for free. Those who don’t want to pay for the service at all can enjoy all the benefits of HideMan VPN for four one-hour sessions per week, although there are limitations both on bandwidth and speed.
You don’t need to be a millionaire to upgrade to a paid subscription, however, and if you’re looking for a VPN for your smartphone, HideMan is one of the most affordable. The cheapest mobile plan available is on the yearly subscription in which users pay just over $2 per month. This is extremely competitive, although both NordVPN and CyberGhost VPN offer similarly good prices but only on their two-year subscriptions.
The Ultimate app is a little more expensive but is compatible with most common operating systems and gives the user a lot more freedom in terms of server selection and unlimited bandwidth. A subscription to HideMan Ultimate will set you back $9 per month on a monthly plan and just $5.75 on a yearly one.
Although not advertised on the website, if you download the free app, HideMan gives you the additional option of signing up for two months at a cost of $15 per month which is also very reasonable.
HideMan is considerably cheaper than ExpressVPN which charges between $8.32 and $12.95 per month depending on the subscription. ExpressVPN is one of the more costly VPNs around but its standard of service still makes it good value for money. With HideMan, however, we’re not so sure and with no-logging VPNs like Surfshark costing as little as $1.99 per month, we’re not convinced HideMan’s service truly cost-effective.
On a positive note, however, you can sign up for HideMan using almost every kind of payment imaginable and it will accept everything from Bitcoin to Visa so, if you want to keep your payment confidential, you can do.
Right then, readers, I’ve had enough of you sitting around doing nothing – it’s time to get interactive! I want you to do me a favor – head over to the ExpressVPN or CyberGhost VPN website, click on the live chat option and trot off an inquiry.
Now I want you to head over to the HideMan website and do the same. You can’t, of course, because HideMan is one of the rare species of VPN that doesn’t yet have a live chat service. Instead, you’ll have to revert to the email system or reach out to them via Skype or Jabber.
Of course, you may be able to find the answers you’re looking for using one of their other support options. For example, you can click on the Help tab at the top of the main interface and an additional window pops up giving a few basic answers to a few basic questions. If you don’t find the answer there, you can click on the Technical Support option at the bottom of the help screen but that will just open up an email form for you to complete and send in.
More in-depth support is available online in HideMan’s FAQ section although even this is pretty limited, especially when compared to a service like ExpressVPN which has extensive online support in the form of FAQs and set-up guides. Although HideMan has a page dedicated to manuals for each of its apps, these are once again very basic.
Another option is to head over to HideMan’s forum and chat with other users, although there seem to be a lot more questions than answers there. As for the email support system, I’ll let you know just as soon as I get a response…
If you just want to try a free VPN and find out how it works, then there’s no reason not to experiment with HideMan. One thing HideMan does and does well is provide a robust encrypted tunnel through which you can anonymously explore cyberspace and navigate your way around a variety of restrictions. Unfortunately, the benefits of HideMan pretty much stop there and if you want a service that prioritizes user privacy, gives timeous and informative support and offers excellent value for money, you should really look elsewhere.
HideMan needs to pull up its socks and get with the program, both in terms of updating its apps, improving is cybersecurity toolkit, engaging its users with effective customer support, and protecting its users’ privacy with a more decisive stance on logging.
Being situated in the UK, which is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance doesn’t do HideMan any favors and nor does its tiny server network. Trying to force a lot of traffic through a limited number of tunnels is bound to cause congestion and HideMan’s speeds are indicative of that.
HideMan has proved effective at getting around blocks such as those put in place by streaming sites like Netflix for example and supports both torrenting and P2P traffic. Nevertheless, that’s not enough to jettison it to the ranks of the best VPNs and unless it does something to improve its speed and logging policy, HideMan will remain languishing in the lower ranks of the VPN.