EVenture Limited subsidiary Hide.me is a Malaysia-based company which has been making waves in the VPN business since 2011.
Hide.me’s network is a fair size, with 2,000 servers (up from 1,900 last time) spread across 75 locations. That’s not bad at all, but the likes of ExpressVPN (3,000+ servers across 94 countries) and CyberGhost (6,400 in 88) give you even more options.
The company piles on the features, though. Wide protocol support includes WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2, SoftEther and SSTP, plus there’s protection against DNS, IP and even IPv6 leaks, and port forwarding is available if you need it. The service can be used on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, routers, consoles and smart TVs, you can connect up to 10 devices simultaneously, and there’s 24/7 live chat support if you run into problems.
Hide.me claims to support P2P on most servers. We verified this by connecting to five different locations, and had hassle-free torrenting in each case.
And unlike some of the competition, Hide.me doesn’t just make vague promises about its unblocking abilities. Its Unblock page lists the many sites it supports, including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, ShowTime and more.
Recent additions include MultiHop VPN, where you connect to one location and exit from another. The extra hop may slow you down a little, but it can help bypass VPN blocking and makes it more difficult for anyone to track who you are. Some VPNs have similar features – NordVPN’s Double VPN, say – but they often restrict the servers you can use. MultiHop VPN enables choosing any entry or exit server from Hide.me’s full location list.
A VPN Bolt feature for Windows claims to accelerate speeds by routing all traffic through TCP rather than UDP. Doesn’t sound like the best idea as TCP is normally slower, but Hide.me applies other tricks, too – hardware offloading, multiplexing through TLS 1.3 channels, encryption via AES-GCM (x64) or ChaCha-Poly-1305 (ARM) – and the results were impressive (more on that later).
The last few months have been relatively quiet in terms of changes for Hide.me, though we noticed one welcome improvement. A new WireGuardNT switch enables running WireGuard in the Windows kernel for even better performance.
Hide.me’s Premium plan is a little expensive, at least for short-term use, at $12.95 billed monthly. That’s around the same as ExpressVPN and CyberGhost, but Private Internet Access, Hotspot Shield, Ivacy and many others charge around $10.
The old six-month plan has gone, and the annual plan has risen from the $3.75 a month we saw last time to $8.32 today.
The two-year plan offers the best value at $4.99 a month, especially as it also includes 2TB of encrypted cloud storage. But if price is a priority, there are many cheaper deals around. Ivacy’s two-year plan also includes 2TB of cloud storage, and is just $2.45 a month. And Private Internet Access is cheaper still, with its three-year plan (including free antivirus) costing only $2.19 a month.
Whatever your preference, a wide range of payment options includes cards, Bitcoin, PayPal and many other providers.
If you hand over your cash and regret it later, no problem: you’re protected by a no-questions-asked 30-day money-back guarantee.
You’d rather pay nothing at all? Surprisingly, Hide.me might be able to help. Its free plan offers a reasonable 10GB data a month, but you only get access to five locations (US, Canada, Netherlands, and two in Singapore). Also, there’s no WireGuard or streaming support, and you can connect just one device at a time. It does support P2P, though, surprisingly – good news, even with the data limit.
Hide.me has a strict “no logging, ever” policy, the company claims, saying: “Logs can easily link actions back to you, and some VPN providers pass these onto law officials when told to do so. We can’t, as we don’t have any. Simple.”
Hide.me does keep a running total of data transfer usage, but that’s no surprise for a service where some plans have bandwidth limits. It also keeps your email address, but that’s to be expected, too.
Hide.me says it will comply with court orders received by recognized legal authorities with jurisdiction over them. But again, that’s to be expected, and if the logs don’t show anything significant, that won’t matter at all.
The company claims this is supported by a ‘comprehensive audit’, and that ‘Hide.me has been certified as the most anonymous VPN service in the industry.’
It turns out that audit dates from 2015, though. There’s little information on the scope of the audit, and no report you can read. Hide.me deserves real credit for realizing the importance of audits so long ago – many providers still don’t get it, even today – but we think it’s probably time to take another one, something more thorough, where everyone can read the full results.
Hide.me’s Windows app is simple and straightforward. The opening screen has little more than a large Connect button which plugs you into the nearest server, but the full location list (countries, expandable to cities in some cases) is just a click away, and status information about your current IP address and location is always visible.
Every location has a ping time to help you judge distance. You can sort locations by name, or ping time to display the fastest servers at the top. A search box makes it easy to find locations by name, though, and a Favorites system enables grouping your most-used servers together for speedier access later.
A dedicated tab displays the best locations for streaming. These are listed by country, rather than streaming platform, and your choices are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States.
Connection times were sometimes a little longer than usual, but only by a couple of seconds, and this is unlikely to be an issue in real world use. The app raises notifications when it connects and disconnects, too, so there’s no need to sit and watch its ‘Connecting…’ animation. You can just switch back to your other apps, and the notification lets you know when you’re protected.
Hide.me’s MultiHop feature gives you another option, which could offer even greater privacy. Choose an entry server of New York, say, and that’s where you’ll connect, but you’ll be redirected through Hide.me’s network to your pick of exit servers: let’s say London. Websites will think you’re in the UK, and even if an attacker manages to compromise the London server, they won’t be able to link the activity to your account (you’ve accessed it using the New York server, not your own IP).
Whether this is really necessary is open to question, and the extra hop will slow you down a little, but we’re happy that users have the option.
The Settings dialog begins with all the main options you’d expect. It can launch when your system starts; optionally connect to the best location, or the last one you used; protect your traffic with a kill switch if the VPN drops, and reconnect automatically to get you back online at speed.
There’s real depth here. The app supports no less than five protocols (WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2, SoftEther, SSTP), for instance, with a stack of configuration options: IKEv2 stealth mode, custom and random ports, tunnel via IPv4 or IPv6, and more.
Here’s another. Like most VPNs apps, Hide.me has a Best Location option which automatically selects the best server for you. But unlike anyone else, Hide.me allows you to choose what ‘best’ means: the lowest ping time, the nearest location or the lowest load.
The advanced features continue everywhere you look. For example, split tunneling support enables defining which apps use the VPN, and which will use your regular connection. And the client doesn’t just have a single on/off kill switch setting to define what happens if the connection drops. It can run customs scripts, too, maybe closing apps, running others, whatever you like. An expert-level extra means you can define whether scripts are run as the current user, or an administrator.
Even Hide.me’s system tray icon is supercharged. Right click most VPN tray icons and you’ll get ‘show’ and ‘exit’ options; here, you can connect to the default server, select any of the others, browse your favorites, close the current connection, and open the settings box, too.
The mobile apps can’t compete with all this desktop power, but they still outperform most of the competition.
The iOS version is simple and straightforward. Just tap Enable and the app connects you to the nearest server, or you can choose an alternative location from a list.
This isn’t the fixed text list we sometimes see elsewhere, though. You can sort locations by name or ping time. A Favorites system helps you save your most-used locations in one place, and there’s a Search box to help you find everything else.
That’s just the start: iOS VPN apps often have no significant settings at all, but Hide.me’s offering beats many Android apps.
There’s support for IKEv2, OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP and WireGuard, for instance. The app can automatically connect when you use Wi-Fi or mobile networks. There’s a kill switch. Experts can even choose a custom DNS server.
If you’re not interested in technical tweaking, that’s okay. Hide.me tucks it all away in the Settings menu, so you’ll only see it if you go looking. But it’s good to have this power available, and you don’t need to be an expert to benefit from it. Just the ability to change protocol alone could mean you’re able to fix connection or speed problems with just a couple of taps.
Hide.me’s Android app has all the features of its iOS cousin, and looks almost identical. That’s good news if you use both apps, because once you’ve learned one, you’ll also know how to use the other. It also shows us that Hide.me pays real attention to usability, and that’s a very positive indicator for the future.
There are a handful of extras. The most significant is support for split tunneling, where you’re able to define which apps use the VPN tunnel, and which don’t. If you’re only using Hide.me to unblock a few sites, say, you could use this to pass your browser traffic through the VPN, but allow other apps to use your regular internet connection.
You also get more finely tuned control over network use, for example optionally allowing your device to access other devices on your network. And there’s a new ‘IKEv2 Alternative Configuration’ option on the Protocols list, which apparently might help you connect if regular IKEv2 fails.
It’s an impressive mix of power and ease of use, but the best part is it’s very easy to check out any of this. You don’t have to register to use Hide.me’s free plan, or hand over any personal details – just install it from your app store, explore the various screens and see how it works.
And if you don’t understand something, or there’s some other problem? You can even raise a ticket from within the app. Now that’s what we call convenient.
We checked out the Windows app’s kill switch by manually closing an IKEv2 connection and everything worked as it should, our internet access was blocked right away, a notification warned us about the problem, and the app reconnected within seconds.
Our connection remained protected when we switched servers, too, a weak point with some apps. (Switch locations and some apps just close the first connection, then try to connect to the new server, leaving your traffic exposed in the meantime.)
The system didn’t perform as well when we switched to OpenVPN. It still blocked internet access when the connection dropped, but didn’t cover us when we changed locations.
The problems really began when we tried our most extreme tests, forcibly closing the OpenVPN.exe and WireGuard.exe processes and checking what happened. You’re unlikely to see either process crash in real life, but our goal is to see how robust an app really is, and how well it handles unexpected events.
In both cases, Hide.me’s kill switch correctly blocked our internet access, preventing unprotected traffic leaving our system, which is great.
Unfortunately, it then refused to reconnect, even after we left it running for more than 10 minutes. So, we gave up, hit Cancel, and then watched a ‘Disconnecting, please wait…’ message for another 10 minutes. Annoying, especially as we couldn’t do anything else because our internet connection was still disabled by the kill switch.
We closed the Hide.me app manually from Task Manager and restarted it, hoping this would fix the problem. Nope: the app displayed a ‘No Internet Connection!’ warning, presumably because the kill switch was still active.
Finally, we turned off the kill switch from Settings, closed the Hide.me app manually from Task Manager, restarted the system, and our internet was back.
We don’t know exactly what the problem was, but it’s important to keep this issue in perspective. These were the extreme facets of our stress testing, and even here, the kill switch worked – our connection was protected. And in the more common situations, where the connection just dropped, the app worked very well.
There’s work to be done, then, but don’t necessarily rule Hide.me out because of our hassles. If you’ll use its expert-level features and functionality, there’s still a lot to like here.
Netflix and streaming
Most VPNs claim they can help you access geoblocked website, and Hide.me is no exception, with the website promising that you’ll ‘avoid annoying censorship.’
And the company turned out to be right, as Hide.me got us access to UK Netflix, and US Netflix in all three tests with both; a perfect result.
We’ve seen Hide.me fail with Amazon Prime Video in the past, but not here: it worked perfectly this time. And the good news continued with Disney Plus, where Hide.me scored another three successes out of three.
We noticed an occasional issue, where sites could take an unusually long time (up to a minute) to display a page or begin streaming. This wasn’t consistent, though, and we couldn’t identify a cause. Even if it was VPN-related, once the sites began streaming we had no quality or buffering problems.
Aside from our performance issues, though, Hide.me’s unblocking results were excellent. But keep in mind that this applies to the paid product only – Hide.me’s free plan doesn’t support unblocking streaming sites.
We assess VPN speeds by running multiple automated speed tests using several platforms (SpeedTest’s website and command line app, nPerf.com, SpeedOf.me and more), from both a UK data center and a US home with a 1Gbps+ cable connection.
OpenVPN performance was excellent, with median speeds of up to 310-330Mbps in the US, 390Mbps in the UK. That’s more than twice most of the competition, with only ProtonVPN doing significantly better at 460-510Mbps.
We turned on Hide.me’s Bolt acceleration technology to see if it helped. UK speeds increased a little for single test sessions to 405Mbps and 465Mbps, but it’s not clear whether Bolt was the cause. It’s good to see a VPN with the expertise and resources trying something new, though, and it’s worth giving Bolt a whirl.
WireGuard speeds were even better, at 680-690Mbps in the UK, 750-780Mbps in the US. That outperforms most of the competition, although a handful of providers have gone just a little faster (CyberGhost, IPVanish and NordVPN are all in the 750-900Mbps area).
These are great figures and show that Hide.me has a lot of performance potential. Keep in mind that we tested using a high-powered 1Gbps home connection and a data center with enterprise-level connectivity, though, so our results will be at the top end of what’s achievable.
Hide.me scored very well in our final privacy tests, too, with ipleak.net, dnsleak.com and dnsleaktest.com confirming that it correctly shielded our IP, allocated us a new address from our chosen country, blocked DNS leaks, and properly cloaked our online activities at all times.
Hide.me review: Final verdict
Hide.me is a speedy and highly configurable service, with an array of unusual expert-level features. If you’re looking for power then go check out the free version right now, see what it can do for you.