Surfshark vs Hotspot Shield VPN review

VPNs can be difficult to shop for even if you’re pretty comfortable with technology. This is because VPN marketing tends to focus on how advanced the apps are, and often forgets that most potential customers don’t have a degree in computer networking. Here’s the good news: we’ve performed an in-depth, side-by-side comparison of two extremely popular services, Surfshark and Hotspot Shieldto help you out.

Below, you’ll find an exhaustive description of what each VPN has to offer Our team will break down every feature in a simple, easily-understandable way so that you know exactly what you’re paying for.

Editor’s note: Hotspot Shield is owned by Pango, Comparitech’s parent company. This did not impact our review in any way, and all praise we give either service is entirely on their own merit.

Can’t choose between Surfshark and Hotspot Shield?

If you’re having trouble choosing one of these services, we’d recommend giving Surfshark a try. It’s one of the fastest, most versatile VPNs we’ve tested, and it comes with a fantastic set of security tools. What’s more, it currently has a steep discount on long-term plans. Hotspot Shield is a solid choice as well, and if you’d like to give it a shot, you can take advantage of our exclusive discount coupon.

Our team conducted an exhaustive investigation into both of these providers. Here’s what we discovered when comparing Surfshark and Hotspot Shield:

Summary: Surfshark vs Hotspot Shield


  • High speeds and unlimited bandwidth
  • Works with most major streaming services
  • Advanced security and privacy features
  • Connect any number of devices

Hotspot Shield

  • Consistently high speeds
  • A strong choice for streaming and gaming
  • Strong on security
  • Lengthy money-back guarantee

Pricing and discounts

No valueSurfsharkHotspot Shield
Subscription periodsOne month, one year, two yearsOne month, one year, three years
Special offer81% discount on two-year plan + 2 months freeSave 77% on three-year subscriptions
Highest price per month$15.45$12.99
Lowest monthly cost$2.30$2.99
One year price$47.88$95.99
Money back guarantee30 days45 days
Best deal (per month)$2.30
Get 2 Months FREE with a 2-year plan
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

Surfshark has one of the highest monthly prices we’ve seen, at $15.45. Hotspot Shield, meanwhile, charges $12.99, which is still on the higher end of the pricing spectrum. On the plus side, there are steep discounts if you’re willing to commit to a medium or long-term plan upfront.

For instance, if you sign up for Surfshark’s two-year plan, you’ll effectively only be paying $2.39 per month. Hotspot Shield isn’t too far off, averaging $2.99 per month over a three-year period.

These VPNs each come with a risk-free money-back guarantee. This means you can sign up, use the service as much as you like, and if you’re unsatisfied, cancel within a set time period to receive a full refund. This guarantee lasts 30 days for Surfshark users and 45 days for Hotspot Shield customers. Hotspot Shield also has a free tier but this doesn’t really provide a good look at what the service can do since you’re limited to 1GB of data per day and can only use a handful of servers.

Best Deal for Surfshark:Choose Surfshark’s two-year plan to get an extra two months of coverage and save 81%.

Best Deal for Hotspot Shield:Sign up for a three-year subscription to save more than 75%.


No valueSurfsharkHotspot Shield
Simultaneous ConnectionsUnlimitedUp to 10
Devices SupportedWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Amazon Fire TVWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, Chrome, Smart TVs, Routers
Manual install devicesSelect routersSelect routers
Free extrasAutomatic wifi protection, ad-blocking and malware-scanning. Extensions for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox. Stealth mode.Browser extensions (Chrome, Edge, and Firefox), built-in speed tester
Best deal (per month)$2.30
Get 2 Months FREE with a 2-year plan
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

Whichever service you choose, you’ll have access to apps for a wide range of devices. Notably, each is included in the Amazon app store; this saves you the trouble of having to sideload your VPN onto your Firestick. Both VPNs also offer addons for Chrome and Firefox (with Surfshark supporting Microsoft Edge as well), allowing you to change location, disconnect, or tweak settings without opening the app.

The main difference here is that Surfshark doesn’t restrict the number of devices you can connect at once, while its rival limits you to 10 simultaneous connections per account. What’s more, Surfshark is able to block ads and malware automatically.

On the other hand, Surfshark does have a few features in the app that you can’t actually use unless you sign up for Surfshark One, its optional paid addon. These include a privacy-focused search engine, an antivirus, a breach alert tool, and an Alternative ID feature that can generate a whole new persona for you.

Streaming and Netflix comparison

No valueSurfsharkHotspot 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)$2.30
Get 2 Months FREE with a 2-year plan
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

So far, these two VPNs have been pretty evenly matched but Surfshark definitely pulls ahead here. Not only did it work with just about every service we tried it with, it allowed us to securely access a couple of additional Netflix libraries too. This makes it an exceptionally attractive option for anyone who likes to stream, particularly as the lack of a connection limit means you can effectively watch anything, anywhere.

To its credit, Hotspot Shield could access some of the most popular streaming platforms, and it even worked with the most in-demand Netflix catalogs. However, many larger services blocked it outright, perhaps because of the large amount of traffic coming from free-tier users.


You’re likely already aware that China limits the content its visitors and citizens can access online. It does this using a collection of tools known as the Great Firewall. While you can get around this blocking with a VPN, most of these services are inaccessible in China.

Although the Surfshark and Hotspot Shield websites can’t be reached, the apps themselves work perfectly well. As such, if you install them before arriving in China, you’ll be able to access the web freely. In fact, Hotspot Shield users don’t even have to do anything differently and can continue browsing as normal. Surfshark customers will have to enable NoBorders mode first (go to Settings > Advanced > NoBorders).

Setup and interface

No valueSurfsharkHotspot Shield
Automatic setup wizardWindows, Android, iOS, Linux, MacOSWindows, MacOS, Android, iOS
Main location selectionList-basedList-based
Extra settings pages
Best deal (per month)$2.30
Get 2 Months FREE with a 2-year plan
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

Both VPNs offer sleek, easy-to-use desktop apps. There’s a quick-connection button right there on the main screen and settings are neatly divided up into different tabs so you can more easily find what you’re looking for.

Surfshark has recently had a makeover, and now lets you monitor various metrics like your total bandwidth used, session length, and what your current IP address is. Servers are separated into four categories (Location, Static IP, MultiHop, and Dedicated IP), plus there’s a search bar to save you from scrolling all the way throuhg the list.

Screenshot of Surfshark's main screen on Windows

Hotspot Shield goes for a more minimal look, with a quick-connect button, daily data usage monitor, and server selection option on the main page, plus a sidebar for accessing other sections of the desktop app. If we had one complaint, it’d be that some of the sidebar icons feel a little unnecessary, but this really isn’t a huge issue. With intuitive server selection and user-friendly settings pages, there’s a lot to like here.

Surfshark vs Hotspot Shield Hotspot shield App

The mobile apps are very similar to the desktop versions and Hotspot Shield is near-identical. Surfshark users can’t run a speed test directly in the app like desktop users can (though they can override their phone’s GPS location without the need for third-party apps).

Servers and performance

No valueSurfsharkHotspot Shield
Server countries10080+
Total number of servers3,2001,800
Best deal (per month)$2.30
Get 2 Months FREE with a 2-year plan
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

Most paid VPNs have around 60 locations to choose from, so both of these providers are ahead of the curve. Hotspot Shield has virtual servers in 80 countries whereas Surfshark’s recent expansion has it now offering servers in 100. It has almost twice as many servers as Hotspot Shield too, which theoretically means it’d be more reliable during busy periods.

There are a couple of interesting things about the results above. First, Hotspot Shield has servers in places many other VPNs don’t, like China and the UAE. Despite this, there’s no need to worry about surveillance or governmental interference, since this VPN uses virtual servers in those locations; in other words, they’re not really in those countries, just pretending to be. Of course, as these services both have no-logging policies, you couldn’t be traced even if they were.

Here’s a complete list of every country where these VPNs have servers:

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

Surfshark and Hotspot Shield speed comparison

The last time we put these services head-to-head, Surfshark was significantly faster. However, our testing revealed that its speeds have dropped somewhat since then. Now, it delivers average speeds of 188 Mbps, which still makes it one of the quickest VPNs on the market.

Meanwhile, Hotspot Shield has actually improved its performance. It averaged just under 200 Mbps, giving it a slight edge in this area. Ultimately, whichever of these you choose, you’re unlikely to notice any real difference unless you’re already used to extremely high speeds.

No valueSurfshark
Average Connection Speed - North America (USA)205 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Europe (UK)193 Mbps
Average Connection Speed - Asia (Hong Kong)168 Mbps
Best deal (per month)$2.30
Get 2 Months FREE with a 2-year 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 valueSurfsharkHotspot Shield
VPN protocolsOpenVPN, WireGuardHydra, IKEv2, WireGuard
OpenVPN data encryption256-bit AES256-bit AES
OpenVPN control channel encryptionRSA-2048RSA-2048
Kill Switch
Private DNS servers
Best deal (per month)$2.30
Get 2 Months FREE with a 2-year plan
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

Surfshark used to support Shadowsocks and IKEv2 but has since decided to focus exclusively on OpenVPN and WireGuard. Hotspot Shield has taken a different approach, with IKEv2 and WireGuard support, plus its own custom protocol, Catapult Hydra. This is designed to beat strict online censorship and provide higher speeds, even across long distances.

These VPNs both use effectively uncrackable 256-bit AES encryption and 2048-bit RSA keys. For context, without the correct decryption key, this would take several lifetimes to crack. There’s a kill switch built into each service too; these automatically block your internet access when you lose connection to the VPN so that you never have to browse unprotected.

Each of these services can hide the fact that you’re using a VPN but (perhaps understandably) neither is particularly forthcoming about how their cloaking works. We do know that other services reshape your data, hiding the telltale indicators of VPN traffic that VPN-blocking networks and services look for.


No valueSurfsharkHotspot Shield
HQ base of operationThe NetherlandsUSA
Connection logsEffectively noneSome, but no identifiable data
Activity logsNoneAnonymized data
User details for signupEmail addressEmail address
Anonymous payment optionsBitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple
Best deal (per month)$2.30
Get 2 Months FREE with a 2-year plan
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

When it comes to privacy, Surfshark has a clear advantage. It’s based in the Netherlands, a privacy-friendly country, whereas Hotspot Shield operates out of the US. This is a Five Eyes country, which means that any of the other member countries can request details of your activities and share them with the US.

Of course, this isn’t a huge issue since neither VPN logs data that can personally identify its users. Surfshark only logs diagnostic information, like failed connection attempts, while Hotspot Shield stores only aggregate data, making it impossible to tell who accessed what. Surfshark allows its users to sign up anonymously by paying in cryptocurrencies, which gives it an edge over Hotspot Shield. We also liked that it didn’t limit you to just Bitcoin, since other currencies have been increasingly popular of late.

Surfshark has a couple of other tools designed to protect your privacy. First off, there’s a rotating IP address feature that makes it even harder to track your activities across the web. It’s also capable of blocking malware and trackers automatically.

Customer service

No valueSurfsharkHotspot Shield
24/7 live chat
Ticket support
Email support
Average email response time2 hours, 28 minutes3-4 hours
Searchable knowledge base
Phone support
Video guides
Best deal (per month)$2.30
Get 2 Months FREE with a 2-year plan
SAVE 77% on the 3 year plan

Both of these services offer 24/7 support over live chat and email. This means that you’re never more than a few minutes away from an answer to your problems. However, while Surfshark will answer anyone’s questions, Hotspot Shield only provides personalized support to paid subscribers. Otherwise, you’ll have to hope that there’s a relevant article in the knowledge base. Surfshark has a searchable database of questions too, plus an official YouTube channel full of video walkthroughs.

Each of these services answered our emails pretty quickly, but Hotspot Shield had a far lower average response time than Surfshark. It’s important to note that this can vary pretty significantly based on the time of day, any ongoing server problems, or even just staff availability, so response times this low aren’t guaranteed.

Both providers answered our questions with a mixture of pre-written and personalized responses. Hotspot Shield went even further, though, and provided specific instructions for unblocking BBC iPlayer on all of the devices we had connected at the time.

The winner: Surfshark

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux


Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

To be clear, either of these VPNs would make an excellent everyday service. Hotspot Shield is quick and reliable with decent unblocking ability, and offers plenty that its rivals don’t. For instance, it boasts an expansive server network, the ability to browse without restriction in China, and an extremely responsive support team.

Surfshark is the better choice for the average user, though. It offers similar speeds while providing a wider range of security tools, and works with a higher number of geo-blocked services. Further, this privacy-first provider keeps no logs, accepts cryptocurrency payments, and lets you connect as many devices as you like. In short, Surfshark is a highly-versatile VPN that’d be a great choice for just about any task.

Surfshark Coupon
Get 2 Months FREE with a 2-year plan
Get Deal >
Discount applied automatically

See also:

Methodology: How we compared Surfshark and Hotspot Shield

Comparing VPNs is trickier than you might think. To really compare and contrast Surfshark and Hotspot Shield, we focused on the following key areas:

  • Server availability: The more servers, the more reliable your connection. However, the locations also matter since this determines what content you’ll be able to access and which country’s laws apply.
  • Performance and reliability: We run multiple speed tests at different times of day, using servers in three countries, before averaging out the result to get a single representative speed. Our approach ensures that inconsistent speeds are accounted for, giving you the best idea of what to expect.
  • Streaming potential: It’s getting harder to access popular streaming services with a VPN active but deactivating it leaves your data visible to snoopers. That’s why we tested Surfshark and Hotspot Shield against platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Peacock.
  • Security: A VPN’s primary goal is to keep your data secure. We looked at these providers’ encryption standards, supported protocols, and any safeguards they offered, such as a kill switch or leak protection.
  • Privacy: We evaluated each provider’s logging policy, anonymous payment options, and obfuscation to make sure that your privacy always comes first. We also checked to see if either had been audited so that you don’t have to take their claims at face value.
  • Ease of use: A VPN should be simple enough for a complete novice to use. Features that simplify things, like 24/7 support, a lack of connection limits, and task-specific servers are highly sought-after.
  • Value for money: We compared each provider’s price to those of similar services, looked for any long-term deals or discounts that were available, and dove into their money-back guarantees and refund policies.

Want to learn more about how we put VPNs through their paces? Read our full testing methodology post.

Surfshark vs Hotspot Shield: FAQs

Is Hotspot Shield good for gaming?

Hotspot Shield is fast and able to avoid most VPN-detection systems, which means it’s a great choice for anyone looking to play online games securely. Not only that, it offers specially-optimized servers in the US and the UK for this exact purpose.

This provider even provides step-by-step instructions on how to install it on your home router. This will allow you to reroute and secure traffic from devices that don’t support VPN apps natively, like games consoles. In other words, you shouldn’t have any issues accessing region-exclusive events or playing with friends in other countries.

Can I try Surfshark for free?

Surfshark doesn’t come with a free trial but it does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. You’ll have to pay for the full month upfront but then you’ll have a full month to try the service for yourself before deciding whether to keep it or not. If you’re unimpressed, simply contact customer support and let them know to receive a full refund.

Which VPN is better for privacy: Surfshark or Hotspot Shield?

Surfshark and Hotspot Shield are two of the most privacy-conscious VPNs on the market. Neither logs any information that could be used to identify you and they both use effectively uncrackable encryption to secure your data.

That’s only the beginning. These providers both ensure no unencrypted data can be intercepted using a kill switch, private DNS servers, and protection against DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leaks. NordVPN even allows you to pay in Bitcoin for another layer of anonymity, while Hotspot Shield can be configured to connect itself whenever you use an unfamiliar network.