hide.me VPN full review

Hide.me is a VPN service based in Malaysia that has been running since 2011. It has always had a zero-logs policy and the option of a free tier. However, since we first reviewed it, quite a lot has changed.

First, it now has 1700 servers in 70 locations, covering 45 different countries which, strangely, don't include Malaysia. It also listened to user feedback and now unblocks US streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, HBO Max and others.

Up to 10 devices can connect simultaneously, which is more generous than many services, and there's also WireGuard support, which rolled out at the end of May. It's still in beta, but it's there. Just head to Settings > Protocol and you can choose it from the list.

It has also upgraded its free offering significantly, so now offers 10GB to use each month and once that's gone you can still use the service, but can't pick which of the five free locations to connect to. The free service still won't unblock those streaming services, but it's one of the better options if you don't want to pay for a VPN.

Features & apps

Hide.me offers apps for Android, iOS, Windows, macOS and Amazon Fire TV. There are browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, and you can install hide.me onto a compatible router. Plus, there are guides which show you how to set up various protocols on a Linux machine.

You can use the service with BitTorrent clients, and there's support static IP addresses and port forwarding - ideal for more technically minded users.

hide.me review

All the apps are easy to use, and you can just hit the connect button if you're not bothered about which server is used. But you can pick a specific server in a country if you want to, though there's no indication of the load or ping time.

hide.me review

The Windows client has by far the most options, most of which won't be used by undemanding users. But they're not on show, so you'll only find them if you're looking for them: all the important stuff is handled automatically.

hide.me review

Privacy

Based in Malaysia and with that zero-logging policy, hide.me is ideally located for privacy, being outside of the "14-eyes".

It says it will comply if asked to hand over information to local authorities, but thanks to the fact it stores no data, there's no record of what you have used the service for, or when or how long you used it. Ultimately, then, there's nothing to give the authorities. The only logging is to keep tabs on how much data you've used if you're on a Free plan, and that's to be expected.

You can pay anonymously via Bitcoin, too, so you can use the Premium subscriptions without your payment details revealing your identity.

Security

You can choose from a range of VPN protocols (they differ depending upon the device you're using) including the latest one, WireGuard.

It's worth noting that hide.me doesn't own and operate its servers, so they're not as secure as some rival services which have their own hardware and software. However, this shouldn't make a huge difference to you as a user considering - again - that no-logs policy.

A kill switch is present in the apps, and this adds security by stopping any incoming or outgoing data if the VPN tunnel collapses. There's also split-tunnelling in the Windows, macOS and Android apps, so you can choose which apps use the VPN and which don't.

hide.me review

For convenience you can choose to automatically connect to a server when your device boots up, and you can also specify what to do when using secure Wi-Fi, insecure (open) Wi-Fi and mobile networks: ask, enable VPN, disable VPN or ignore the network.

Last but not least is Stealth Guard, which is in the Windows and macOS apps. This does a couple of things. First, you can set it so that certain apps must use the VPN. That sounds like split-tunnelling, but with Stealth Guard, those apps won’t work unless the VPN is running. So if you want to ensure you’re protected before downloading a torrent, you can choose your BitTorrent client in Stealth Guard.

The second way it can work is to limit all apps to the VPN connection. This can be used on the mobile apps to ensure your data allowance is better protected: data will only be consumed while the VPN is active.

Performance

Hide.me still calls itself the World’s Fastest VPN. That is a bold claim. When we last tested the service, we used the default settings in the Windows app which automatically pick a protocol - but nowhere does it tell you which one it's using. Speeds weren’t the worst we've seen, but all the servers we tried reduced our usual (download) connection speed (a 100/100Mbps leased line) by around 50 percent or more, and our upload speed by more than 90 percent in some cases. Ping times were also poor.

When we switched to the OpenEther protocol in the Windows app, ure enough, we saw much improved speeds - especially on closer servers in the UK and Europe - compared to OpenVPN. However, this protocol isn't available in the iOS or Android apps.

We haven't been able to test WireGuard speeds as the coronavirus lockdown means we don't have access to that fast leased line in the office, and testing on a much slower 40Mbps home broadband connection wouldn't tell us much.

As and when we can get back to the office, we'll run tests with WireGuard.

On one of the Windows PCs, we enabled Stealth Guard which successfully prevented any apps from connecting to the internet unless the VPN was enabled. However, after disabling it, those apps still couldn’t connect and nothing we tried would restore that connection: not even uninstalling the hide.me app. In the end, we had to completely reset the network settings to fix the issue.

We saw no security problems when testing for IP or DNS leaks: hide.me always kept our real location hidden. It was a little annoying that we experienced a couple of dropped connections, but at least the kill switch worked as advertised and cut the internet connection to prevent an IP leak.

hide.me review

One of the big questions is whether a VPN service unblocks Netflix. And of course, thanks to the recent changes, that's no problem at all for hide.me. We were able to stream after picking the main USA server option rather than choosing one specifically from the nine on offer.

Pricing & plans

Hide.me used to have two choices for paid subscriptions. The 'Plus' option had a limit of 75GB per month. That's all gone, and now there's just the free and paid-for tiers.

As with other services, the price varies depending upon how long you sign up for, and the cheapest option is the two-year deal which works out at £4.61 per month (billed £119.99 every two years). In the US, that's $4.99 per month and $129.95 billed every 24 months. At the time of writing, hide.me was also adding two extra months free on top.

You can see these options on hide.me's website.

While these prices are higher than rivals' such as NordVPN, it can still work out cheaper if you regularly need to have 10 devices connected at the same time - Nord allows six simultaneous connections. That's an unlikely scenario, though.

You can see our recommendations - including Nord - in our roundup of the best VPN services.

Verdict

Hide.me is a decent VPN service overall. The changes it has made address several of the issues we had with it before, mainly the fact that it will unblock streaming services now. It's still pricey, though: Surfshark will also unblock streaming services for less than half the price and allows unlimited connections.