WHAT’S IN THIS REVIEW?
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hide.me is likely to be on your radar if you’re looking for a freemium VPN service with generous data limits.
Their lifetime free VPN now provides 10GB per month with no speed restrictions, up from a previous total of 2GB.
That brings it in line with the likes of Windscribe and makes it an interesting prospect for unpaid users.
hide.me also has a solid paid tier, offering streaming support and lots of additional features.
They promise to provide some of the fastest speeds in the business, but does it match up to the very best VPNs? Read on to find out in this extensive hide.me VPN review.
A one-month subscription of hide.me was purchased for the purposes of this review.
I’m usually wary of ‘free’ services, be it due to data concerns or poor functionality compared to the real thing.
For the most part, you’ll be safe and secure with hide.me, which has to be seen as a great option if you’d like a free lifetime VPN and you’re willing to accept some limitations along the way.
The same goes for the paid version, even if it’s a little pricier than I would have hoped.
Here’s what we thought of the freemium and premium versions of hide.me, and how it measures up to the competition.
Created in 2011 by tech entrepreneur Sebastian Schaub, hide.me is a popular VPN that has some astounding user numbers. Over 20m people have tried the service, highlighting just how important their free tier has been for the growth of their business.
Schaub has always been keen to ensure they can cater for unpaid customers;
“Being true to my vision, I had to offer a free version of our VPN that allowed basic users to maintain their privacy, and that’s why we had to design our architecture in such a way that we could scale quickly whenever we needed to.”
To that end, he has lived up to his promises so far.
Hide.me is owned by eVenture Ltd, with the company clearly named at the bottom of their website.
With almost a decade within the industry, there are no real controversies to mention, and there’s a level of transparency that is a breath of fresh air compared to many other VPNs.
Pros & Cons
Will the positives outweigh the negatives for hide.me? Here’s a rundown listing what we found while testing the service.
hide.me racks up quite an impressive list of pros for a freemium VPN service. Here’s what we liked best:
- Capable free tier with no limits in terms of security
- 10 simultaneous connections per premium account
- Great speeds, even from the free servers
- WireGuard support for premium users
- Lots of additional features
- First commercial VPN to be audited
- Non-five eyes HQ
- Self-managed DNS servers
Fast speeds aside, are there any drawbacks to consider with hide.me VPN? See below:
- Streaming is locked to premium users
- Limited server locations for freemium plans
- One of the pricier VPNs on the market
- Limited free tier service
As the first B2C VPN to offer IPv6 and WireGuard, you’d expect hide.me to be packed with interesting features.
As well as the basics such as a Kill Switch, there are lots to choose from if you’re looking for usable extras that can enhance your experience.
Stealth Guard/Split Tunneling
Stealth Guard is a ‘unique feature that provides an additional layer of security and a step towards a more secure browsing experience. It offers you the flexibility to either choose certain apps or your entire internet connection and limit them to hide.me VPN.’
They also offer split tunneling, which allows you to select which apps to route through their VPN.
Free Private Proxy Browser
Their ‘Free Private Proxy Browser’ will allow users to unblock any website. So, what’s the catch?
The proxy locations are limited to the Netherlands, Germany, and Finland.
It’s still a nifty addition if you need to connect to a website in one of the three countries at no cost.
The freemium tier of hide.me is an attractive prospect. You’ll need to provide a valid email address to sign up, but they’ll give you access to a generous helping of 10GB of protected data per month.
If you happen to exceed the cap, they’ll still protect your device:
“If a free VPN user exceeds the 10 GB limit, they can continue using hide.me but they will connect to a random Unlimited Free server.”
You won’t be able to get a static IP address with hide.me, but they do offer fixed IPs as an alternative. As they explain:
“With our Fixed IP feature, you can reserve an IP address on the VPN server. This way you will be assigned the same IP address every time that you connect to that specific VPN server. But if a server is very loaded, there is a possibility that someone else will get that IP address.”
- 1 Month: $12.95/mo.
- 12 Months: $8.32/mo.
- 2 Years: $4.99/mo.
hide.me is actually one of the more expensive providers when all is said and done.
Take their one-month plan, priced at $12.95. That puts it in line with some of the bigger names in the industry, such as ExpressVPN.
The same is true if you check out their annual deal, priced at $8.32 per month. That’s expensive for a yearly plan, and you’ll have to pay the entire amount upfront.
I guess they have to pay for those free users somehow, and that’s in the form of slightly higher prices than the norm for premium customers. Lastly, 24 months costs $4.99 per month or a total of $129.95 every two years.
Look elsewhere if you were hoping for a good budget option, rather than a great ‘freemium’ VPN.
As well as traditional payment options such as credit card and PayPal, you’ll also be able to make a purchase via wire transfer, or with the following cryptocurrencies:
- Ethereum Classic
Lastly, their money-back guarantee ensures that you can get a refund with no questions asked within the first 30 days of purchase.
Given their many security features and industry experience, it’s no surprise to find that hide.me claims to collect zero logs.
The hide.me website says:
“As part of hide.me’s commitment to privacy, we are amongst a very few VPN to get audited by renowned security specialist, Leon Juranic (Founder & CEO of DefenseCode Ltd).”
However, this audit took place back in 2015, which is a significant length of time in the world of online security.
If you’re concerned about data requests, hide.me has published a Transparency Report each year detailing the number of requests to disclose individual users’ personal data received since 2013.’
The 2020 Transparency Report notes: “We do respond and cooperate with every single request we get. But, because we are based in Malaysia, we have no legal obligation to store logs. And because we are a zero log VPN provider, this means that we have no data to hand over.”
Overall, it’s a decent result, although it would be great if they could release a more recent third-party audit to bring them up to date, rather than relying on a report from 2015.
Many VPNs claim to have the ‘fastest’ connection speeds.
hide.me is no different, but can they really keep up with the best in the business while maintaining a capable free tier at the same time?
There are only five server locations that can be selected with the freemium version of hide.me, although I would have had more than enough data for testing thanks to the 10GB per month allowance.
To begin, I ran a quick test with no VPN connected to give a better idea of my usual speeds.
Everything seemed to be working perfectly, so I connected to the nearest available location with hide.me.
Firstly, I tried out their recommended server in Amsterdam, which was exceptionally fast.
Most premium VPN providers can’t get anywhere near 300 Mbps, even if I’m connecting to a server found in the UK, which is where I live. (In other words, 296 Mbps is an amazing result, especially as it’s a server in Amsterdam.)
Next up was a location much further away, found on the East Coast of the USA.
Ping took a significant hit due to the sheer distance, but download speeds were still healthy at just over 230 Mbps.
Next, it was back over to Europe to test the speeds of their free German servers.
As you may have guessed, it was another solid result, coming in roughly 20 Mbps below the recommended location.
It’s hard to find many faults with hide.me in terms of their server speeds, which aren’t too far behind my ISP’s data cap. Better still, you don’t have to pay anything, and they don’t limit free users.
My assumption was that results would be further improved if I were to connect to a UK-based server, although none were available with the freemium version. As such, I purchased a one-month sub to test them out properly.
Download speeds of 260 Mbps mean that the majority of their servers can be used with no danger of lag.
As far as speed goes, hide.me ranks very high among both free and premium VPNs.
Server Locations & Network
The full range of hide.me server locations is listed below.
- Europe: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, UK
- Americas: Brazil, Canada, Mexico, USA
- RoW: Australia, Cambodia, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Taiwan, UAE, Vietnam
It’s a reasonably wide selection of countries, while they have 1,900 servers altogether across their network. Coverage works out to all six continents, so it’s a solid choice no matter where you’re physically located.
However, free users are limited in terms of where they can connect to, in terms of both servers and countries.
Five locations don’t seem like much, while it’s not helpful if you wanted to access popular streaming services.
However, it’s a decent selection that will take care of the core functions that you would expect from a VPN.
It’s also another incentive to push users towards their premium service, especially if you have to connect to an unsupported location as I did for the purposes of the speed tests above, and streaming tests below.
Streaming & Torrenting
I’ve paid a lot of attention to the freemium tier of hide.me for this review, but I would be unable to test their streaming claims with this version as they were locked behind a paywall.
The paid version of the software is supposed to be able to handle anything you can throw at it as they claim to have: ‘found a workaround to bypass Netflix restrictions and our servers are optimized for US Netflix streaming.’
They say that it should also unblock BBC iPlayer, along with the following USA TV services:
- Netflix USA
- Amazon Prime
- HBO Now
Once I paid up, a streaming tab was unlocked within the app.
From here, you’ll be able to select a relevant server to unblock various platforms. I’m happy to report that everything worked perfectly.
You’ll also be able to take advantage of their money-back guarantee should you run into any issues.
Unfortunately, you can’t use their free USA servers to access US Netflix.
That’s more than fair, given the time and effort it takes to bypass the restrictions put in place by streaming services in an attempt to protect their international broadcasting agreements.
They also note that: “hide.me isn’t blocking or throttling any type of traffic. All of our servers are torrent-friendly.”
Of course, you’ll soon be stopped by their 10GB cap if you plan to share large files regularly.
It’s a solid result, although you’ll have to stump up the cash for their premium service if you want to use hide.me for entertainment purposes.
It could be argued that the ‘lifetime free VPN plan’ is a capable anti-censorship tool, as they offer the service to anyone and everyone in need of a provider. There is a cap, but 10GB should be enough to access social media or online news sites.
hide.me also offers the majority of features with their free tier.
They don’t donate to any relevant causes, while there’s no mention of giving away free premium accounts to users seriously affected by censorship.
Platforms & Devices
hide.me has native app support for a range of devices that goes beyond the typical selection. As well as their collection of client apps, they also have a couple of browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox.
With a premium account, you’ll be able to use hide.me on ten simultaneous devices as opposed to the usual five, which does help to make it slightly more appealing when looking at the price tag.
The app was easy to install, clearly listing the free servers and the amount of remaining data at the bottom.
I didn’t run into any bugs or errors, and there were no ads or prompts to buy the premium tier aside from the text seen at the bottom. For the paid version, this changes to an ‘Extend’ prompt.
If you need a user-friendly app that also happens to be free, hide.me has to be seen as a serious contender.
Encryption & Security
hide.me offers a range of protocols that will differ depending on your device. According to the website, compatibility is as follows;
- WireGuard® (macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android)
- IKEv2 (macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android)
- SSTP (macOS, Windows, Linux)
- OpenVPN (macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android)
- SoftEther (macOS, Windows, Linux)
For more information about each one, hide.me has a roundup which can be found here.
Overall, it’s a decent selection to choose from, and it includes the implementation of WireGuard.
The experimental protocol should give the user better speeds, and ‘supports more modern encryption methods and hash functions such as ChaCha20, BLAKE2s, SipHash24, HKDF, and Curve25519.’
However, WireGuard isn’t available on the free tier, with the option greyed out if you try to select it from the list.
(Instead, it’s only available for premium users.)
There’s still a choice on every platform, although you’re fairly limited if you’re not using the Windows client.
They offer AES-256 bit encryption with 8192 bit keys as standard.
Given the many security-boosting features we’ve listed and the fact they were the first VPN to be audited, it’s no surprise to learn that they do well if you’re hoping for a privacy-focused provider.
The majority of their features can easily be accessed via the tab on the left, including Stealth Guard and Split Tunneling.
If you’re in need of a freemium VPN, hide.me is up there with the very best in the business. Their audit is a little older, but that’s more acceptable when they were the first company to introduce the practice to the industry.
A more recent third-party audit of their software is the only thing that holds them back from a perfect score in terms of trust, while they get top marks for privacy.
You could do far worse, especially when looking at unpaid VPNs. (Consider that some will promise a free service, but actually sell your data instead.)
There are some limitations with the free version. Whether it be streaming, protocols, or servers, it does seem like most of the special stuff is locked behind a paywall. Regardless, what you’re left with is a highly usable VPN, no matter which version you happen to have.
It’s still a little too expensive for my tastes, especially in terms of raw pricing. It leads to comparisons with some of the juggernauts in the industry, although hide.me does hold up well. Furthermore, the majority of the competition doesn’t have a free lifetime version of their software which eats up valuable resources, and they offer seamless streaming.
Speeds were exemplary and far higher than I expected given I tested many servers available with the lifetime plan. The premium ones were just as fast. Again, this leads to top marks for hide.me.
Aside from Windscribe, I can’t think of any other ‘free’ VPN which actually works as you’d expect. If you plan for heavy usage, you’d probably be better served looking elsewhere, but there’s nothing to stop you from downloading the software and giving the ‘lifetime’ hide.me plan a try for yourself.
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