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Hotspot Shield Hotspot Shield Premium is more expensive than most VPNs, but does at least give you plenty of options, with no less than four plans. Extending your subscription gets you much better deals, though. There’s no support for paying by Bitcoin, but you can use a range of other methods, including cards, PayPal, and for extra anonymity gift cards from hundreds of companies. Sign up for a Premium account and although you’re asked for your payment details, you’re not billed for the first 7 days. Cancel within that time and there’s nothing to pay, and even if you hand over the cash, you’re still protected by a generous day money-back guarantee.
Hotspot Shield Hotspot Shield Premium is more expensive than most VPNs, but does at least give you plenty of options, with no less than four plans. Extending your subscription gets you much better deals, though.
There’s no support for paying by Bitcoin, but you can use a range of other methods, including cards, PayPal, and for extra anonymity gift cards from hundreds of companies.
Sign up for a Premium account and although you’re asked for your payment details, you’re not billed for the first 7 days. Cancel within that time and there’s nothing to pay, and even if you hand over the cash, you’re still protected by a generous day money-back guarantee. CyberGhost also offers 45 days, but most providers stop at 30, and Private Internet Access only gives you 7. Hotspot Shield will notify you if your connection is interrupted or disconnects Image Credit: AnchorFree Privacy Understanding a VPN’s security usually starts by looking at its protocol support, encryption and authentication details.
This can be hugely complicated, but just seeing that a service supports a secure protocol like OpenVPN can give you reassuring feedback about its safety. Instead it uses its own proprietary Catapult Hydra technology.
This isn’t as worrying as it might sound. Catapult Hydra’s focus is on improving performance, and the encryption side of the protocol uses much the same standards as everyone else.
Which, for non-encryption geeks, is more than good enough ot keep you safe. One problem with proprietary technologies like Catapult Hydra is there’s no easy way to see what else is going on. OpenVPN is open source and any developer can look at the code, figure out how it works, perhaps find problems or suggest improvements, something which isn’t possible here. That doesn’t mean you must take Hotspot Shield’s claims entirely on trust, though. The company points out that Catapult Hydra is used by ‘the majority of large cybersecurity companies that offer VPN services from within their apps, such as McAfee, Bitdefender, Cheetah Mobile and many others.
Client implementation is also important, especially when it comes to blocking DNS and WebRTC leaks which might give away your real identity. Some of Hotspot Shield’s apps include a kill switch to prevent this by shutting down your internet until the VPN is back up, but does this really work?
We ran some quick tests on the Windows client, and found it generally coped very well. If the connection dropped, the client alerted users almost immediately, and tried to reconnect. Even with the kill switch turned off, our IP address was exposed for typically no more than a couple of seconds. When we turned the kill switch on, our IP address wasn’t visible at all.
AnchorFree Logging Hotspot Shield makes apparently definitive no-logging claims on its website. A support page , for instance, states that “We do not collect any personally identifiable information on Hotspot Shield.
We do not collect, store, or share any permanent identifiers of users, including IP addresses. We do not keep any activity logs for any of our users, whether they are free or Premium.
If you’re looking for extra reassurance, AnchorFree’s Transparency Report is an interesting read. It details the requests it received in for information from governments and law enforcement agencies and how much user data was produced that turns out to be 56, and none. While that’s good news about activity logging, it isn’t the full story.
None of this can directly tie you to a specific online action, but it’s still a little more logging than you might expect. OpenSpeedTest Performance Hotspot Shield makes big claims about the performance of its Catapult Hydra protocol, but does it live up to the hype? We checked the service out with Netflix’ Fast , Speedtest and other websites to find out. Connecting to our nearest UK location returned speeds of around 68 to 70Mbps, all we could expect from any VPN on our 75Mbps fiber broadband test line.
If your connection is faster there’s a good chance you’ll get more. Reaching out to close European locations – Netherlands, France, Germany – made barely any difference at all, with speeds of around 65 to 70Mbps. Connecting to the US saw our download speeds barely change at all, at around Mbps, a significant improvement on our last full review. Oddly, many of Hotspot Shield’s more distant servers were even faster, with Brazil, India, Japan and Singapore all averaging around Mbps.
Switching to Australia finally saw speeds drop, though only to around Mbps, which still tramples all over just about everybody else. These are stellar results, both for top speeds and consistency, especially for the most distant locations. If you plan to regularly connect to faraway servers, Hotspot Shield just might be one of the best VPNs around. Netflix Netflix Connecting to a VPN can help you bypass all kinds of website restrictions, from streaming sites which block content in specific countries, to countries such as China which block a host of popular sites.
Measuring a VPN’s unblocking abilities is difficult as there are so many factors involved, but we try to get a feel for its effectiveness by checking how the service works with YouTube, BBC iPlayer and Netflix. Hotspot Shield gave us speedy access to geoblocked YouTube clips, without any hassle at all. That’s good news, although also no great surprise, as YouTube is relatively easy to unblock.
BBC iPlayer is better protected and usually more of a challenge. Not for Hotspot Shield, though, which allowed us to stream content exactly as usual. Netflix goes to great efforts to block VPNs and is normally the most difficult streaming site to access. Hotspot Shield allowed us to download torrents without any bandwidth limits or restrictions Image Credit: There’s no mention of this on the front page of the website, most of its feature lists or the opening page of its FAQs.
Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll discover some good news. The service fully supports P2P on all servers, so once you’ve connected with any of the clients Windows, Mac, Android or iOS , you’re ready to start downloading. The support site has a few simple guides for beginners, with advice on why you might want to use a VPN for torrenting , and pointers on How To Download Torrents Anonymously. Whatever method you’re using, Hotspot Shield doesn’t have any bandwidth limits or restrictions, so you should be able to use the service as much as you like.
Hotspot Shield offers clients for most major platforms and browsers Image Credit: AnchorFree Client setup Sign up for Hotspot Shield and you’re redirected to your web console, where you’ll find download links for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS clients, along with the Chrome extension. If you’re hoping to find instructions for setting up connections manually, on routers or other platforms, you’re going to be disappointed.
Hotspot Shield used to support standard protocols such as OpenVPN, but you’re now only able to use its proprietary ‘Catapult Hydra’ technology. The company claims this is worthwhile, quoting speed increases of up to 2. These apps and clients are, at least, easy to install and use. The Windows client set itself up much like any other application, while the mobile apps and Chrome extension can be found and installed from their relevant app stores.
Log in with the user name and password you created during signup and you’re ready to explore the service. AnchorFree Follow the instructions and you’re connected to the service within a very few seconds Hotspot Shield connects faster than most VPNs.
It all looks great and is very well presented. Clicking the current location displays a list of other countries you can choose from. This is a simple menu with no information on server distance, load or ping times, no option to choose locations within a country, and no Favorites system or ‘Recently used’ list to speed up reconnecting.
The list is relatively short at 29 countries, though, and as choosing a location switches servers so quickly – around three seconds on our review system, significantly faster than most VPNs – Hotspot Shield is still very speedy to use.
You can set Hotspot Shield to connect automatically or even enable a kill switch from the settings Image Credit: AnchorFree Hotspot Shield’s settings dialog is equally simple, with very few options. It still covers the bare essentials, though, with switches to run the client when Windows starts, prevent IP leaks and enable a kill switch to block internet access if the VPN drops.
There’s one welcome bonus feature in the client’s ability to automatically connect to Hotspot Shield when you access unsafe wifi hotspots, safe hotspots or all networks. That option isn’t available nearly as often as we’d like, and it’s good to see it here.
The client’s Help option is another plus. You can get step-by-step advice in a click or two, and if that doesn’t help, a Contact button opens your browser at Hotspot Shield support’s Live Chat page for some professional assistance. Open the app, click Connect, and your current location is displayed on a small map.
Tap the location name or the map and you’ll notice a useful extra. While the Windows client always reconnects initially to whatever server you were using last, the Android app can be set up to connect to the fastest server for your current location. Scrolling down the screen reveals another handy option in the ability to automatically protect the traffic of specific apps. Add your required apps to the list and Hotspot Shield will automatically connect whenever they need to go online.
There are bonus tools to scan for malware and extend battery life the app used to have a Bitdefender-based malware scanner, but this seems to have been dumped. These have some value, but don’t appear to be doing anything particularly advanced, and you can get very similar capabilities from a host of free Android maintenance apps.
A Settings panel also follows much the same pattern as the Windows client, with options to start when your device boots, or to automatically turn on Hotspot Shield for particular network types secured, unsecured, mobile. There’s no integrated kill switch setting, unfortunately, but you do get a battery-saving extra in the ability to turn off the VPN when your device is sleeping. We’re glad to see the Android app also has embedded help documents from the Hotspot Shield site, allowing you to get guidance on common issues from within its interface, rather than simply opening a support website and leaving you to find the relevant articles on your own.
There’s not a lot of power or configurability here, then, but the Android app is certainly easy to use, and its ability to automatically choose the best server is a welcome advantage over the Windows client. AnchorFree iOS app Hotspot Shield’s iOS app is another close interface match for the other clients, with little more than a connect button, a world map and list of locations, and a very few settings. As usual, the iOS version has a touch more visual style than the desktop competition.
Once you’ve hit the Connect button, the app doesn’t just highlight your current location on the map, it also leaves it pulsing, gently. That makes it easier to spot your location at a glance, and conveniently, it looks great, too. What you don’t get is much in the way of functionality. The ‘optimal server’ connection option you get with Android isn’t available here, and you’re left to select a specific country as your default location. The Settings panel is sparse, too, with no autostart or autoconnect options, and no kill switch.
The only option you get is an ‘Insecure connections’ setting which warns you if you’re connecting to an insecure network, perhaps prompting you to connect manually. Even that is turned off by default.
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