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Hotspot Shield is the fastest VPN on earth. But it’s the extras it gives you that might actually win you over.
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It was a June morning like any other when the virus snuck through FedEx’s vast network disguised as a routine software update. No one knew it was there. Months later, when cybersecurity experts were still picking through the ruins of the “NotPetya” malware attack, FedEx had lost a cool $300 million.1
If hackers could figure out how to worm their ransomware into FedEx, imagine what easy targets our puny, unsecured home networks make.
The folks at Hotspot Shield know just how vulnerable we are online. And like all the best VPN providers on the market, they can make a lot of that risk go away by putting airtight seals on our devices at home and on the go. But how does Hotspot Shield compare to other VPNs in terms of monthly costs? Here’s a complete breakdown of Hotspot Shield’s pricing and plans, and the extras they offer to sweeten the deal.
Do you like fast VPNs? Then you’re going to love Hotspot Shield. Hotspot Shield burned over 300 Mbps of rubber on our 500 Mbps line, in the U.S. and in Europe. (Check out our in-depth Hotspot Shield review to read all about how this VPN performed in our speed tests.)
If you like easy-to-use dashboards with plenty of data, Hotspot Shield scores points here, too. You get an uncluttered map view with server loads, peak speeds, and daily data consumption, in addition to a Favorites-type list that remembers the servers you use.
Finally, Hotspot Shield is pretty attractive at $7.99 per month. That deal gets even sweeter with a $2.99 1Password (password manager) subscription thrown in for free.
Did You Know: According to Ookla,2 Hotspot Shield isn’t only the fastest VPN in the world. It actually left its two closest competitors in the digital dust, performing 2.2 times faster than ExpressVPN and 8.5 times faster than Avira.
No doubt Hotspot Shield looks great on the books. Let’s see how their plans and prices actually compare.
Hotspot Shield isn’t the only VPN to offer a free plan. McAfee-owned TunnelBear does the same. But Hotspot Shield’s doesn’t give you as much mileage as TunnelBear’s free plan. You get one location, 500 MB of data, and a 2-Mbps connection. So basically, it offers a taste of the app, along with a hint of what it’s like to connect.
That leaves us with the premium plan and the family plan. We’ll see how Hotspot Shield’s premium plan compares to other top VPN services in just a second. But first, a word on the family plan, just in case you saw the extra $4 per month and automatically wrote it off.
VPN family plans aren’t something you see every day. Anyone who manages VPNs for a household knows that protecting five devices (the industry average) is rarely enough for families of more than two.
Hotspot Shield’s family plan gives you five users and up to 25 devices, which is more than enough for pretty much any family. So, if you’ve got a family — and don’t want to be passing around VPN logins — this option definitely deserves a second glance.
|Hotspot Shield Plans||Monthly Cost|
Pro Tip: Free VPN plans might look great on paper, but they usually come with too much annoying crippleware3 to give you a good idea of day-to-day VPN performance. If you’re considering a VPN provider, and really want to test it out, it’s better to pay for a month of service.
Hotspot Shield’s $7.99 per month price tag might seem steep at first glance, but that’s only if you compare it to super low-priced VPNs like CyberGhost or Surfshark. CyberGhost’s 39-month plans, for example, are a rock bottom $2.25 per month. Surfshark’s costs are easy on the wallet, too, starting at $2.49 per month. Just keep in mind, with both you’ll need to commit to multiyear contracts. Hotspot Shield is a yearly plan, which gives you a little more freedom.
When you compare Hotspot Shield to all-in-one competitors in the same general price range, Hotspot Shield’s $7.99 per month price tag is actually competitive. ExpressVPN’s yearly pricing plans are just a little more expensive at $8.32 per month, while NordVPN costs a few dollars more at $9.82 per month. But clearly, if you are shopping for a top-of-the-line, all-in-one VPN service, all three are worth checking out.
The takeaway? Hotspot is substantially more expensive than the bargain-rate VPNs, but par for the course when you move up to top tier VPN services with security ecosystems.
FYI: When we think of cheap VPNs, anything under $5 per month usually fits the bill. But you can actually find complete VPN services for under $1.75 per month, like VyprVPN. VyprVPN’s 3-year plans are a jaw-dropping $1.61 per month. Are they worth it? Our VyprVPN test results say the Switzerland-based VPN is definitely worth checking out.
I’d say this all boils down to the size of your household. If you have three or more serious users under the roof, the family plan ($11.99 per month) with its 25 devices and five users might be the safer bet. Those extra twenty devices mean you’ll always be protected. If not, the premium plan has everything you need to keep one or two users safe.
My only gripe with Hotspot Shield’s family plan is that it doesn’t include its built-in malware blocker, spam call blocker, or password manager (more on this in a second). While I can kind of understand why Hotspot Shield can’t give away 1Password family plans — they’re $4.99 per month — why wouldn’t they offer their malware protection to families?
A final thought on plans. If you’re not sure if you can get by with five connected devices on the premium plan, why not just try it? Hotspot Shield offers a generous 45-day, money-back trial, so you have nothing to lose.
The only thing I wouldn’t recommend is trialing Hotspot Shield’s free plan. It’s too slow and doesn’t give you enough data or servers to form any conclusions about the all-around service.
Pro Tip: When a VPN service offers a limit of five connected devices, that doesn’t mean that you can’t connect to, say, eight or nine devices; it just means you can’t connect to all of them at the same time. While disconnecting and closing your VPN app (so someone else can use it) is a workaround, it can get complicated pretty quick when entire families are online. So if you’re a three-plus household, consider a VPN service with five-plus connections.
You definitely get your money’s worth with the Hotspot Shield dashboard. It makes it easier to connect to better servers with its recommended server option and server load stats. It also shows you how much data you’re burning through. Not bad, right?
Hotspot Shield throws in a few extras to make that deal even better: built-in malware protection, a robocall blocker (if you’re outside the U.S. and Canada), and a password manager.
Just in case you were wondering, no, this isn’t Aura Antivirus, the add-on you can purchase for another $5.99 per month when you subscribe to Hotspot Shield’s premium or family plan.
Hotspot Shield’s built-in malware protection doesn’t have a virus scanner like Aura Antivirus, but it does keep you safe from malware and phishing attacks, infected sites, and spam with its up-to-date database of 3.5 million sites known or suspected to be involved with online fraud.
Did You Know: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recorded over 4.8 million identity theft and fraud reports in 2020. That was a 45 percent jump from 2019. Identity theft in particular rose by 113 percent over that year.
Password managers like 1Password are a crucial element of good “digital hygiene,” even if only a quarter of Americans actually use them. (That number is up by 8 percent since 2017, by the way, which is a very good sign.)
Let me break this down a bit.
Password managers, or vaults, keep all your passwords (and bank details and credit card numbers, if you want) in a super encrypted file in the cloud that you can access from all your devices. They also warn you if any of your passwords have been compromised, and with their browser extensions, they autofill your login info for you whenever you sign in to a website or service.
In other words: no more memorizing weak passwords, no more password lists wadded up in your wallet, and no more Word files with all your passwords on them sitting on your desktop for hackers to steal.
1Password usually costs $2.99 per month (for one user). With a Hotspot Shield premium subscription, it’s free.
FYI: Password managers not only remember your passwords for you, their password generators create mathematically stronger passwords. Consider ilovehondas!123 and tlwlXgHeaWiqvPc. Both of these are 15-character passwords. The first (human-generated) is actually a lot weaker than the second (computer-generated), even though the human one uses numbers and special characters and the computer-generated one just uses letters.
Did You Know: Fraudsters really have no scruples. We know this because they’ve taken advantage of COVID-19 fear to peddle testing scams by phone. If you’re not sure what this might sound like, give a listen to the coronavirus phone scam recordings the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has collected. Listen and beware.
You don’t have to look hard to find cheaper VPNs. But you would have to look very hard to find a faster one. In fact, you’d have to look on another planet, according to Ookla.
You might say that speed isn’t everything, and that’s true, but if you’re transferring heavy files, gaming, or streaming hi-def daily, that extra speed (300 Mbps in our tests) will make a big difference.
Last, but definitely not least, when you sign up for Hotspot Shield Premium, you get 1Password, a quality password manager. That service is normally $2.99 per month. In my book, this in itself makes Hotspot Shield hard to turn down.
As with any VPN, the service isn’t all roses. Hotspot Shield isn’t on a privacy mission like at least two of its close, all-in-one VPN competitors, NordVPN and ProtonVPN. It doesn’t have a zero-logs policy or DNS servers as clean as ExpressVPN’s, and the Mac desktop client has some pretty annoying kinks.
But as far as performance goes, Hotspot Shield is in a class of its own with solid malware protection and a premium password manager bundled in. If that’s your definition of value for money, then Hotspot Shield might very well be your next VPN.
Now, if you’re interested in using a VPN but you’re not sure what you’re looking for exactly, a good place to start is our All Things VPN page. There you’ll find everything you need to know about VPNs, and then some.
Hotspot Shield’s yearly premium plan costs $7.99 per month. While this isn’t nearly as cheap as Surfshark, CyberGhost or VyprVPN, it’s a little less than other all-in-one VPNs in the same pricing tier like ExpressVPN and NordVPN, to name two.
Yes, it does, but it only gives you 500 MB of data, one location, and a 2-Mbps connection.
Yes, Hotspot Shield offers a 45-day, money-back trial.
Hotspot Shield is really easy to use, but lacks a traditional split tunneling feature, and a kill switch for the Mac desktop app.
According to Ookla, it is, by a wide margin. Our own speed tests support this.
You get five users and up to 25 simultaneously connected devices for $11.99 per month.
BBC. (2017, September 20). NotPetya cyber-attack cost TNT at least $300m.
Ookla. (2020). Hotspot Shield – Fastest VPN from Speedtest Awards
Timmer, J. (2012, February 14). Not wasteful, but unethical: why we hate crippled products. ARS Technica.
Insurance Information Institute. (2021). Facts + Statistics: Identity theft and cybercrime.
Smith, A. (2017, January 26). Password management and mobile security. Pew Research Center.
Hastings, D. (2019, August 5). I’m a security expert and this is how robocall-blocking apps violate your privacy. Fast Company.