ExpressVPN vs Hotspot Shield review

VPNs are always trying to one-up each other, which means they frequently introduce, remove, and rebrand features. These services can seem a bit complicated, each with their own constantly evolving set of jargon, so any attempt to research and compare different VPNs can quickly become overwhelming. What’s more, while services often tout their more advanced features, they often fail to adequately explain how these help you during day-to-day usage.

Don’t worry: we’re here to help. Below, you’ll find a clear and concise breakdown of every feature that ExpressVPN and Hotspot Shield offer. Just as important, we’ll let you know what each of these does, and provide additional context to give you a better understanding of what you’re paying for.

Editor’s Note: Hotspot Shield is owned by Pango, Comparitech’s parent company. This has not influenced our comparison in any way and all of our findings, claims, and statements are backed by concrete evidence.

Can’t choose between ExpressVPN and Hotspot Shield?

If you can’t quite decide which provider to go with, we’d suggest giving ExpressVPN a try first. It’s a fast, security-conscious VPN that won’t overwhelm you with advanced features. Better still, there’s currently a large discount available on long-term plans. Hotspot Shield is a great service too, and if you choose this instead, you can take advantage of our exclusive coupon to cut the price as much as possible.

We personally tested each of these VPNs, noting down all of their features, functionality, and weaknesses. Here’s what our team discovered:

Summary: ExpressVPN vs Hotspot Shield


  • Many high-speed servers
  • Fantastic streaming abilities
  • Top-notch security features
  • Keeps no logs and accepts payment in Bitcoin

Hotspot Shield

  • Fast and reliable connections
  • Works with popular streaming services
  • Takes user security very seriously
  • Generous guarantee period

ExpressVPN vs Hotspot Shield: pricing

No valueExpressVPNHotspot Shield
Subscription periods1 month, 6 months, 1 yearOne month, one year, three Years
Special offerThree months free with a 1 year subscriptionSave 77% on three-year subscriptions
Highest price per month$12.95$12.99
Lowest monthly cost$6.67$2.99
One year price $99.95 (actually for 15 months)$95.88
Money back guarantee30 days45 days
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% on the annual plan
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

You’ll usually find that month-to-month subscribers pay the highest prices, but at around $13 USD per month, ExpressVPN and Hotspot Shield are a little more expensive than average. That said, it’s clear that these services are aiming to gain long-term subscribers since they offer steeper discounts the longer you sign up for.

ExpressVPN users who choose the annual plan cut the cost by almost half ($99.95 for 15 month’s coverage, instead of $194.25). Hotspot Shield offers even greater savings with its three-year plan, though, slashing the price by more than 75% ($95.88 instead of $467.64 for comparable month-to-month coverage). There’s more to VPNs than just their price, though, so don’t make a decision just yet.

Both services offer a money-back guarantee, allowing you to try them out risk-free and cancel for a full refund. ExpressVPN’s guarantee lasts for 30 days, which is the industry standard, but Hotspot Shield goes a step further with a generous 45-day guarantee. It also offers a free plan, but you’ll only be able to access US servers and connect a single device.

Best Deal for ExpressVPN:Save 49% and get an extra three months free by choosing ExpressVPN’s annual subscription.

Best Deal for Hotspot Shield:Get an exclusive 77% discount on three-year plans.

ExpressVPN vs Hotspot Shield: Features

No valueExpressVPNHotspot Shield
Simultaneous Connections5Up to 10
Devices SupportedWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Smart TVs, RoutersWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, Chrome, Smart TVs, Routers
Manual install devicesSet-top boxes and certain routersSelect routers
Free extrasSmart DNS service. Browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Vivaldi, and BraveBrowser extensions (Chrome, Edge, Firefox)
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% on the annual plan
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

Both VPNs come with a wide selection of apps, including some specifically designed for Linux and Amazon Firestick, meaning there’s no need to sideload them. There are also extensions for Chrome and Firefox to give you control over your connection right there in the browser.

ExpressVPN has the edge here as it has its own custom firmware that simplifies the process of installing the VPN on certain routers. Conversely, Hotspot Shield users have to follow manual setup instructions for these platforms. However, it does allow twice as many simultaneous connections as ExpressVPN (10 versus five).

Both VPNs offer split-tunneling (though not on iOS). This is the ability to let specific apps or websites bypass the VPN. This can be helpful, for instance, if you want to ensure a download isn’t interrupted and don’t care whether it’s encrypted or not. Hotspot Shield also includes its own speed tester while ExpressVPN is capable of blocking ads and trackers automatically.

Streaming and Netflix comparison

No valueExpressVPNHotspot Shield
Unblocks Hulu
Unblocks Sky Go
Unblocks Prime Video
Unblocks BBC iPlayer
Unblocks ABC
Unblocks CBS
Unblocks NBC
Unblocks ITV
Unblocks Channel 4
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% on the annual plan
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

As you can see, ExpressVPN is the clear winner when it comes to sheer streaming ability. Not only did it work with a huge range of streaming services, it allowed us to securely access almost a dozen Netflix libraries. This is a difficult feat and extremely attractive to VPN users, more than a third of whom want to bypass regional restrictions.

While Hotspot Shield didn’t fare quite as well, it certainly proved that it’s capable of standing alongside top VPNs when it comes to streaming. It only really had issues with the largest streaming services, and worked with moderately popular channels without any problems. Notably, Hotspot Shield can securely access several of the most in-demand Netflix libraries, something many other VPNs fail to do.


The Chinese government restricts access to all kinds of content using a collection of web-filtering tools known collectively as the “Great Firewall.” The good news is that both ExpressVPN and Hotspot Shield let you bypass these restrictions and browse the web freely (though they will occasionally run into issues when the Great Firewall is updated).

Here’s the best part: unlike with many other VPNs, neither ExpressVPN nor Hotspot Shield requires you to do anything differently to surf safely in China. However, as both service’s websites are currently blocked, you’ll have to install the service before actually arriving in China. It doesn’t hurt to save manual setup instructions too, just in case you find that you need to troubleshoot on your arrival.

See also: Best VPNs to use in China

Setup and interface

No valueExpressVPNHotspot Shield
Automatic setup wizardWindows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Tomato and DD-WRT routersWindows, MacOS, Android, iOS
Main location selectionList-basedList-based
Extra settings pages
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% on the annual plan
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

Both of these services come with user-friendly desktop apps. ExpressVPN’s features a large quick-connect button on the main screen and a server list that’s separated into categories. Users can also view recommended servers or see all locations on a given continent. The settings menu is similarly spread across several tabs and uses clearly-worded descriptions. This helps keep things clutter-free and simple enough for just about anyone.


Hotspot Shield’s desktop app is similar, but it arranges its servers alphabetically, with the US and UK servers coming before any others in the list. Additionally, there’s a quick access section with your two most recently-used locations. Alternatively, you can search for your desired country directly. The settings are neatly organized and it’s easy to understand what they all do. There’s even the option to start a live chat session directly from the support tab.

ExpressVPN vs Hotspot Shield Hotspot shield servers

ExpressVPN has clearly done its best to create a consistent user experience across all of its apps; in fact, the mobile version is almost identical to the desktop one. The only real difference is in the settings menu, as certain features (using only ExpressVPN’s DNS servers, for instance) are missing. It’s important to note that there is still a full suite of security features though.

Hotspot Shield’s mobile app is actually more enjoyable to use than its desktop ones. This is because it does away with most of the clutter on the sidebar, making it much easier to find what you’re looking for. Additionally, it allows you to connect or access settings directly from the main screen. For what it’s worth, the settings haven’t really changed; the only difference is that you can’t manually choose which protocol to use.

Servers and Performance

No valueExpressVPNHotspot Shield
Server countries9480
Total number of serversUndisclosed1,800
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% on the annual plan
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

Normally, you’d expect a paid VPN to offer around 60 different locations. ExpressVPN and Hotspot Shield buck this trend by going above and beyond, with 94 and 80 respectively. ExpressVPN has servers in some less common locations including Andorra, Jersey, and Macau, while Hotspot Shield offers IP addresses from China, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates. Note that these servers are free from government interference as they’re virtual — in other words, they’re actually hosted elsewhere in the world and not subject to these locations’ laws.

Below, you’ll find a full list of the countries where these providers offer servers:

ExpressVPNHotspot Shield
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brunei Darussalam
Costa Rica
Czech Republic
Hong Kong
Isle of Man
New Zealand
South Africa
South Korea
Sri Lanka
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States

When it comes to speed, ExpressVPN has a clear advantage. In our most recent tests, it delivered an average download speed of around 193 Mbps. For context, that’s fast enough to watch 4K video on several devices at once. Hotspot Shield, meanwhile, averaged 197 Mbps — slightly better than its rival.

No valueExpressVPN
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)253 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)193 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)133 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% on the annual plan
No valueHotspot Shield
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)207 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)195 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)189 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.99
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan


No valueExpressVPNHotspot Shield
VPN protocolsOpenVPN, Lightway, IKEv2Hydra, IKEv2, WireGuard
OpenVPN data encryption256-bit AES256-bit AES
OpenVPN control channel encryptionRSA-4096RSA-2048
Kill SwitchDesktop only
Private DNS servers
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% on the annual plan
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

ExpressVPN supports the OpenVPN protocol but it also has its own proprietary one, named Lightway. This is extremely quick, and can keep users safe in the brief moment when swapping from mobile data to wifi (or vice versa), which is excellent. Not to be outdone, Hotspot Shield has a custom protocol too, Catapult Hydra. This is known for its ability to evade VPN-detection systems and is a large part of how this service has been able to remain functional in China for so long. HSS users can also switch over to IKEv2 if they’d prefer.

Both services use 256-bit encryption — this is so secure that without the correct decryption key, it would take an attacker hundreds of years to crack. ExpressVPN uses 4096-bit RSA keys, though, which are twice as long as Hotspot Shield’s. While neither is especially likely to be cracked, this extra length makes ExpressVPN’s keys more difficult to guess in a brute force attack.

Each of these VPNs includes a kill switch that stops sending data the moment your connection drops. This way, you’ll never inadvertently browse without protection. What’s more, they both cloak your data in different ways.


No valueExpressVPNHotspot Shield
HQ base of operationBritish Virgin IslandsUSA
Connection logsSome aggregated dataSome, but no identifiable data
Activity logsNo identifying data
User details for signupEmail addressEmail address
Anonymous payment options
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% on the annual plan
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

These services both have solid privacy policies, but ExpressVPN has a slight advantage. To begin with, it’s based in the British Virgin Islands, a country with no data-retention laws. Conversely, Hotspot Shield is based in the US, a member of the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance.

On the plus side, neither service logs any data that could identify you. Hotspot Shield does keep session duration data and a record of the sites you visit but stores this in such a way that it’s impossible to trace anything back to one specific user. ExpressVPN keeps minimal connection logs including the date of your connection. However, none of this data can identify you. One major advantage ExpressVPN has is that it accepts Bitcoin payments. Conversely, at the moment, it’s not possible to sign up for Hotspot Shield anonymously.

Although Hotspot Shield has had its Hydra protocol’s code independently audited, it has not released any audits of its network infrastructure or apps. ExpressVPN, on the other hand, has been audited multiple times, meaning you don’t have to take its privacy claims at face value.

Customer Service

No valueExpressVPNHotspot Shield
24/7 live chat
Ticket support
Email support
Average email response time49 mins3-4 hours
Searchable knowledge base
Phone support
Video guides
Best deal (per month)$6.67
SAVE: 49% on the annual plan
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

Both VPNs provide 24/7 support over email and live chat. However, you should note that Hotspot Shield only offers this service to paid subscribers. Instead, this VPN recommends free users try to find answers in the expansive knowledge base. ExpressVPN has a similar, searchable database of FAQs, as well as a YouTube channel filled with video guides.

The winner: ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN Jun 2023

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux


Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

If our research has shown anything, it’s that it’s a mistake to dismiss Hotspot Shield. After all, it’s very fast and more than capable of handling any streaming or torrenting you might want to do. What’s more, it’s packed with powerful security features.  and doesn’t log any data that can identify you. It even works in China, which isn’t something many VPNs can claim.

Today’s victory goes to ExpressVPN though. This service offers access to a higher number of countries and works with a wider range of streaming platforms. Further, it boasts an impressive array of security and privacy protections, including the ability to sign up anonymously with Bitcoin, which Hotspot Shield lacks. Whether you’re looking to browse free from government surveillance or simple to stream Netflix abroad, ExpressVPN would make an excellent choice.

ExpressVPN Coupon
SAVE: 49% on the annual plan
Get Deal >
Coupon applied automatically

See also:

Methodology: How we compared ExpressVPN and Hotspot Shield

Comparing two VPNs is more difficult than you might expect. After all, what’s best for one user might not be the best for another, and we need to ensure that our winner can handle whatever you throw at it. With this in mind, we paid close attention to each of the following areas when testing ExpressVPN and Hotspot Shield:

  • Server availability: The number of servers isn’t everything but it does have an impact on speed and reliability, as well as the range of content you can access. We checked to see how many servers were available, which locations were supported, and whether any of the provider’s servers were virtual (since this changes which country’s data-protection laws apply).
  • Performance: There’s always an element of randomess when it comes to speed, so we designed a test that would account for consistency as well as maximum potential. We repeatedly speed tested these providers at different times of day using servers in three countries before averaging the results to get a single representative speed.
  • Streaming ability: It’s becoming increasingly difficult for VPNs to evade detection but constantly disconnecting leaves users open to inadvertently browsing unprotected. That’s why we check to see if providers can reliably access platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer.
  • Security and privacy: A VPN’s main job is to keep your activities private. That’s why we examined ExpressVPN and Hotspot Shield’s encryption protocols, their safeguards (including leak protection, kill switches, and obfuscation tools), and their privacy policies to make sure that there’s as little risk to you as possible.
  • Ease of use: The more beginner-friendly a VPN is, the better. Our team made sure that these services were suitable for video calling, gaming, and torrenting, and noted down anything that made them easier to use, such as 24/7 live chat, multi-platform support, and well-organized apps.
  • Price: We can’t in good conscience recommend any provider that charges more than is really fair. To make sure you get the best deal possible, we looked for any discounts, free trials, or money-back guarantees that a VPN offers.

If you’d like to learn more, check out our VPN testing post. This breaks down our full methodology in a concise, easy-to-understand way.

ExpressVPN vs Hotshot Shield FAQs

Which of these VPNs has the best no-logs policy?

It’s fair to say that ExpressVPN has a better no-logs policy than Hotspot Shield. While both VPNs keep some connection logs, only Hotspot Shield logs your IP address. However, this is deleted at the end of each session. Neither VPN keeps any logs by which you can be identified as a user which makes them a solid choice if you’re looking to browse privately and anonymously.

Last but not least, ExpressVPN is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands where there are no data retention laws. Hotspot Shield operates out of the US which is a Five Eyes member. As part of this intelligence alliance, the US can share intelligence with other member countries (and vice versa). However, the average VPN user isn’t going to be on their radar and even if you were, the good news is that Hotspot Shield won’t have any identifying logs to provide anyway.

Does ExpressVPN have servers in China?

ExpressVPN doesn't have servers on the Chinese mainland, though it does offer two locations in Hong Kong. It's worth noting that these are virtual servers, meaning they're not at risk of being seized by Chinese authorities. Additionally, ExpressVPN is one of the few providers that still works in China, although some users have reported reliability issues lately due to upgrades to the country's Great Firewall.

If you're looking to get a Chinese IP address, we'd recommend Hotspot Shield instead. Again, these servers are virtual, meaning there's no need to worry about your activities being seen by the government.

Is ExpressVPN or Hotspot Shield better for gaming?

ExpressVPN and Hotspot Shield are two extremely fast services, so they're both excellent choices for playing online games. We've had no issues using these VPNs to play titles like Final Fantasy XIV, DOTA 2, and Warzone. What's more, these providers both offer servers in a huge range of countries, which means you can get a low-latency connection from just about anywhere in the world. Hotspot Shield even offers gaming-optimized servers in the US and the UK so you don't have to try servers at random.

Can I install Hotspot Shield on my router?

Hotspot Shield can be installed on Asus, LinkySys, Netgear, TP-Link, D-Link, DD-WRT, and Tomato routers, though you'll have to follow manual setup instructions.

If this seems a little too technical, don't worry: customer support staff can walk you through everthing step-by-step. Alternatively, you could sign up for ExpressVPN since this service actually has its own app for routers that greatly simplifies the process.