Hotspot Shield is supported on Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Windows Phone. It is also backwards compatible with Win XP. To begin using the service, click the small “install file” and the process will automatically begin.
The first screen you see shows your connection status and a slider to turn on the VPN service. Elite users also have the option to bypass content restrictions and block ads. The elite service also unlocks servers located outside the U.S. There is a quick launch menu on the side of the screen for access to settings.
Features and Specifications
Hotspot Shield gives you standard VPN protection (private browsing, encrypted data) with the added benefit of malware protection and ad blocking. Using AnchorFree’s database of over 3.5 million malicious sites, the service scans your system to protect you from scams and phishing.
The program actively scans your system for malware infections, including new data files you may transfer over the VPN. Ad blocking and malware protection are features rarely found on a VPN service.
Perhaps to be expected, the free service has reliability issues. Major media sites are still blocked on the free service, as is adult content. Free users are currently limited to 750 MB of download data (mobile users are limited to 450 MB).
Unlocking the elite version of the service removes all restrictions. Downloads were speedy on the elite version, and major streaming platforms like Netflix and BBC iPlayer worked well. We do need to warn you that major streaming platforms are always developing new software to detect VPNs. If you are buying a VPN service exclusively to stream on a specific platform, do your research to make sure it still works first, no matter when you are reading this article. Music sites like Spotify and Pandora are currently accessible on the elite service.
One feature Hotspot Shield is known for is speed. In testing, the users experienced less dormancy compared to other services. Websites loaded quickly, and perhaps most importantly, most videos played with no issues. When we went up to 4K playback we did experience some problems, but many services don’t play HD video well at all. In general, we have no major speed issues to report.
Hotspot Shield is extremely limited compared to other services as far as server locations available. Free users are limited to servers inside the United States. Paying for the service gives you access to servers in 20 locations. Some of these places include the U.K, Australia, Hong Kong, India and Germany. The one server available to users in the Middle East is in Turkey.
It’s difficult to find server locations on the site, which is a bit of a red flag for us. We tend to trust services that are transparent and make basic information easily accessible.
Hotspot Shield is an OK choice where privacy is concerned. The service uses the strongest grade encryption (256-bit AES), so your information and browsing activity are completely secure.
The service has some of the most unique pricing plans in the industry. Plans start at “Free” and end at “Lifetime.”
As we mentioned above, the free plan is very limited. The restrictions (like only offering access to US servers) are so severe that anyone serious about using a VPN and considering Hotspot Shield should probably just begin with a paid plan.
The paid plans start at $12.99 monthly. There are also 6-month and one-year plans (that break down to $8.99 and $5.99 a month respectively). Hotspot Shield’s Lifetime plan is quite rare in the VPN industry. It only costs $139.99 for unlimited, unrestricted access for life. But make sure the service meets all your needs before you choose the Lifetime plan. Even with a VPN, forever is a big commitment. All things considered though, it is the most affordable plan out there.
Hotspot Shield support is exclusively online, but comprehensive nonetheless. You can either solve your problem through an online ticketing system with your inquiry answered in a few hours, or you can use the “Tutorials” or “FAQ” section of the site to find a solution immediately.
Anyone new to VPNs can find basic information about what a VPN is, how it works and why you need one on the site.
Hotspot Shield is a decent choice for beginner to mid-level VPN users. The service’s speed, malware protection, and Lifetime plan are the features that make it stand out the most.