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Hotspot Shield VPN Review
If you want a VPN with super-fast download speeds for Australian and US servers, you want Hotspot Shield.
Our international team put Hotspot Shield through extensive testing and have updated our review to reflect our findings.
It’s been two years since I first reviewed Hotspot Shield, but the reality is I’ve been using this particular virtual private network (VPN) service for around six years. While VPN Unlimited has bragging rights to the only VPN I’ve reviewed with a lifetime subscription, six years ago I managed to nab a lifetime sub for Hotspot Shield via a short-lived deal.
Since then, it’s been a reliable go-to Hotspot Shield, particularly noteworthy for download speeds and most streaming services. Fast-forward to more recent times, and despite my six years of loyalty to Hotspot Shield, it’s clear this VPN has some issues that other competitors do not.
Hotspot Shield VPN pricing and plans
|One-month Hotspot Shield VPN plan|| |
|One-year Hotspot Shield VPN plan|| |
|Three-year Hotspot Shield VPN plan|| |
|One-month Hotspot Shield Family plan|| |
|One-year Hotspot Shield Family plan|| |
Hotspot Shield VPN plan pricing effective as of publishing. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
When Hotspot Shield gets it right, it gets it really right. Impressively, there was an unbeaten sub-1% change in download speeds for our Australian and US server tests. There’s a decent single-server free version with a good amount of data, and a rare Family plan with up to 25 simultaneous connections. The regular version of Hotspot Shield, though, is restricted to not just five simultaneous connections but five device installations. Hotspot Shield is also inconsistent with streaming and comparatively expensive across all subscription durations.
Hotspot Shield VPN prices and plans compared
No matter which way you cut it, the regular version of Hotspot Shield is very expensive. It’s great that it’s offered in Australian dollars, but it’s nowhere near the cheapest option for monthly, annual and multi-year pricing of all the VPNs I’ve reviewed. Even then, the three-year subscription is inexplicably hidden and requires some illogical clicking.
There are some saving graces when it comes to pricing, though. Hotspot Shield offers a decent free VPN and a generous 45-day money-back guarantee. There’s also a seven-day trial when you sign up, but don’t forget to set a calendar reminder if you intend on switching VPNs. In a rare move, Hotspot Shield also has a family subscription for up to 25 devices, which has great per-device value, especially if you can split the costs.
By far the best way to get Hotspot Shield, though, is as part of a Dashlane password manager subscription. As long as you buy Dashlane Premium or Dashlane Family & Friends, you also get a bundled Hotspot Shield VPN subscription alongside an excellent password manager.
Compare Hotspot Shield VPN prices to other VPN prices
|From US$12.99/mo||View plans||60/83||Best VPN|
|From AU$19.79/mo||View plans||84/146||Stacks of servers|
|From US$12.95/mo||View plans||113/151||Very user-friendly|
|From AU$19.99/mo||View plans||82/112||Fast speeds|
|From US$12.95/mo||View plans||99/142||Unlimited connections|
|From US$11.99/mth||View plans||55/82||Unlimited connections|
|From AU$59.99/yr||View plans||29/29||Bundles well with antivirus|
|From €5/mo||View plans||42/70||Low fixed monthly pricing|
|From AU$18.79/mo||View plans||91/116||Balance of servers, locations|
|From US$9.99/mo||View plans||57/69||Lifetime subscription|
|From US$10.99/mo||View plans||44/59||Cheap monthly pricing|
|From US$10.95/mo||View plans||77/95||Straightforward server switching|
|From US$9.99/mo||View plans||67/90||Swiss-based anonymity|
|From AU$15.21/mo||View plans||38/46||Unlimited connections|
|From US$9.00/mo||View plans||69/112||Lifetime subscription|
|From US$9.99/mo||View plans||47/61||Solid free version|
Hotspot Shield VPN connectivity and user experience
During my years with Hotspot Shield, I’ve come to appreciate how easy it is to use, even if it’s comparatively slow to connect and switch servers (around eight seconds). Whether I’m using Hotspot Shield on Windows 11, a Google Pixel 7 Pro or on my Nvidia Shield TV Pro, it’s intuitive and informative.
Tap the big power button to automatically connect to the last server you used, which seems to be remembered across devices. Once connected, disconnection is a single one-second tap away, and there’s also some insightful server information. For instance, Hotspot Shield on Windows and Android displays the IP address of your server, the load percentage, latency and your connection uptime. Both apps also track how much data you’ve used in the last 24 hours, and there’s an inbuilt internet speed test.
Shifting locations is very straightforward, even if I do wish Hotspot Shield had the option to manually select a server or, at least, a button to switch to a new one. Admittedly, the automated approach makes life easier for newcomers, and it’s nice to see specialist servers for streaming and gaming.
Speaking of automation, the Windows version of Hotspot Shield has an internet kill switch, automatic connection for public WiFi, and IP leak prevention enabled by default. Hotspot Shield doesn’t really have a lot of advanced features for VPN veterans, though, outside of split tunnelling.
Despite a comparatively small server network (1,800+ servers), Hotspot Shield has a healthy 112 global locations to connect to, with Oceania, Asia and Europe having the most server options.
Hotspot Shield VPN supported devices
According to Hotspot Shield, the following platforms are supported:
- Android TV
- Fire TV
Hotspot Shield is also compatible with Asus, GL.inet, Netgear, Linksys and TP-Link routers, though open-source firmware may be required. At the time of writing, Hotspot Shield came preinstalled on the Netgear R6700, Linksys WRT3200ACM and Asus RT-AC53000 routers purchased via FlashRouters.
While that’s a decent range of supported platforms, the unique catch with Hotspot Shield is it’s limited to five devices. That restriction covers five simultaneous connections as well as installation on five devices. Practically speaking, you have to remove a device if you install Hotspot Shield on five devices, which is an annoyance that leads to me frequently having to log in across devices.
Hotspot Shield VPN speeds
Unless your internet provider is throttling your speeds, connecting to a VPN service will impact your latency and download/upload speeds. To highlight this, the table below shows the midday speeds for Hotspot Shield with an Aussie Broadband100/40Mbps FTTC connection.
In terms of the table below, buffering speeds are rated accordingly:
- Fast (1–5 seconds)
- Moderate (5–15 seconds)
- Slow (15–25 seconds)
- Extremely slow (slower than 25 seconds)
|AU VPN (auto, fastest)||75.87Mbps (~0.5% slower)||35.27Mbps (~7% slower)||28ms (22ms slower)|
|US VPN (auto, fastest)||75.73Mbps (~0.7% slower)||28.77Mbps (~24% slower)||144ms (138ms slower)|
|UK VPN (auto, fastest)||44.53Mbps (~42% slower)||15.72Mbps (~59% slower)||283ms (277ms slower)|
Hotspot Shield speeds range from awesome to underwhelming. First, the great. In my tests, Hotspot Shield had killer download speeds for automatically selected Australian and US servers, both of which had less than a 1% impact. The impact to upload speeds for Australia are minimal and acceptable for the US (and a lot better than the 84% slowdown they used to be for the latter).
Upload and download speeds to the UK take a noticeable hit, as does latency. While latency is second only to Windscribe VPN in terms of minimal impact, Australian latencies for other VPNs tend to be anywhere from no impact to a max of three milliseconds. Hotspot Shield bizarrely comes in at 28ms latency, even on servers with minimal load, which tells me it might be automatically choosing servers that aren’t in Sydney (where I’m based).
Hotspot Shield VPN streaming
For those who don’t mind running the risk of having their streaming services blocked or banned, a VPN can be used to stream content from geoblocked libraries overseas. A VPN that’s great for streaming should work across popular US, UK and Australian streaming services, loading content libraries in a timely way while buffering content quickly and without errors.
Hotspot Shield VPN compatible?
|Stan (including Stan Sport)||Yes||Fast|
Hotspot Shield was all over the place for streaming during my latest tests. Even those services with fast buffering speeds are the result of my being forced to switch locations. Consistently, the specialist streaming servers didn’t work as well as automatic options or manually selected locations, which is concerning for everyday users. Netflix US and BBC iPlayer in the UK are two easier wins for competent streaming VPNs, but even they had sluggish libraries and moderate buffering speeds (with more location switching required). Bottom line: Hotspot Shield is okay for streaming—I certainly use it a lot for HBO Max—but there are much better streaming VPNs out there.
The table below gives you an idea of how Hotspot Shield might work with your NBN connection. It uses the max potential download speeds for any given connection to give you an idea of how the best-case 1% and 42% download speed changes for US and UK servers, respectively, might impact your overall download speed when using Hotspot Shield.
The three columns on the right offer the number of simultaneous streams per connection. While Netflix has a maximum of four simultaneous streams per 4K account, Hulu and BBC iPlayer have options for unlimited streams. We know these stream numbers get ridiculous for beyond-NBN 100 plans, but they’re a good indication of speed degradation.
NBN speed tier
Max NBN download
Hotspot Shield VPN download
|NBN 12||12Mbps||11.88Mbps (US), 6.96Mbps (UK)||Too slow||Too slow||Too slow|
|NBN 25||25Mbps||24.75Mbps (US), 14.5Mbps (UK)||1 stream||1 stream||Too slow|
|NBN 50||50Mbps||49.5Mbps (US), 29Mbps (UK)||3 stream||3 streams||1 stream|
|NBN 100||100Mbps||99Mbps (US), 58Mbps (UK)||4+ streams||6 streams||2 streams|
|NBN 250||250Mbps||247.5Mbps (US), 145Mbps (UK)||4+ streams||15 streams||6 streams|
|NBN 500||500Mbps||495Mbps (US), 290Mbps (UK)||4+ streams||30 streams||12 streams|
|NBN 1000||600Mbps||594Mbps (US), 348Mbps (UK)||4+ streams||37 streams||14 streams|
Should I buy Hotspot Shield VPN?
Hotspot Shield does some key things well. It has a decent free version, a rare family plan and it boasts some incredibly fast download speeds. Still, the five-device installation restriction, average streaming results and overall expensiveness means there are better options available from providers like NordVPN, Private Internet Access VPN and ExpressVPN.