It isn’t always obvious which way to go when choosing between two VPN providers. And it’s particularly true if all you have to go on is each provider’s marketing. To get a handle on a VPN’s performance, we perform comprehensive tests to see if one outperforms the other. In this post, we’ll use the results of our expert analysis to help you figure out whether Windscribe or Hotspot Shield is the best VPN for you.
Windscribe vs Hotspot Shield: Highlights
Pricing and Discounts
|Windscribe||Hotspot Shield||Hotspot Shield|
|Hotspot Shield Premium||Hotspot Shield Family Premium|
|Subscription periods||One month||One month||One month|
|One year||One year||One year|
|Highest price per month||$9.00||$12.99||$19.99|
|Lowest price per month||$5.75||$7.99||$11.99|
|Money-back guarantee||3 days||45 days||45 days|
Based on the pricing listed above, it jumps out at us that Windscribe is significantly less expensive than Hotspot Shield. And that applies across the board, regardless of whether you sign-up for a month or a year. Windscribe is definitely easier on your wallet than Hotspot Shield. Windscribe also offers a “Build a Plan” subscription, where you pay $1 per month per server location.
Where Hotspot Shield outdoes Windscribe is with its 45-day money-back guarantee. 45 days is beyond the industry standard of 30 days, so it’s very generous, especially when you compare that with Windscribe’s 3-day money-back guarantee.
I think Windscribe should up its refund period. But at the same time, Windscribe also offers a free tier, which users can sign-up for if they simply want to test the service.
|Simultaneous connections||Unlimited||10 or 25 (depending on the subscription)|
|Operating system apps||macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android, FireTV, Nvidia Shield, KODI||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, AndroidTV, Amazon FireTV|
|Manual install devices||Routers||Routers|
|Split tunneling||Yes (macOS and Windows only)||Yes, Smart Routing feature|
|Free extras||Ad-blocking (R.O.B.E.R.T.), browser extension for Firefox, Chrome, and Edge||No|
Both providers do a good job with platform support. On top of the usual suspects (macOS, Windows, iOS, Android), they both provide a Linux app – which you don’t see every day. Both provide support for Amazon FireTV – with HSS also supporting Android TV. But Windscribe is the only one of the two to support routers, browser extensions, and ad blocking.
Both providers support split tunneling. HSS supports it in all its apps, whereas Windscribe only has it for macOS and Windows users. Hopefully, Windscribe will expand support to other platforms in the future.
Split tunneling allows you to select the apps or URLs that go through the VPN and which ones go through your ISP gateway. Hotspot Shield’s implementation of split tunneling is called Smart Routing, and it enables you to split your traffic by app, URL, or both. Winsdcribe’s implementation splits the traffic on an app-by-app basis only.
On the number of simultaneous connections, Windscribe will be hard to beat – it allows for unlimited simultaneous connections. How can you ask for more? Hotspot Shield’s number of simultaneous connections is based on the subscription plan you sign up for. You get ten simultaneous connections when you choose its Premium plans and 25 if you select a Family Premium plan.
All-in-all, the win goes to Windscribe here.
Windscribe vs Hotspot Shield: Speed
|North America||77 Mbps||116 Mbps|
|Europe||48 Mbps||114 Mbps|
|Asia||41 Mbps||144 Mbps|
|Global||55 Mbps||124 Mbps|
So Hotspot Shield’s speeds are much better than Windscribe’s. It’s pretty much no contest here. I remember Windscribe’s speeds being much better when I previously reviewed the VPN service. Let’s hope it can do something to bring its speeds back up to those levels. For now, Hotspot Shield is the faster VPN and the winner of the Speed category in this review.
|Netflix||US||US, UK, Canada, Australia|
|Amazon Prime Video||No||Yes|
|Channel 4 (All 4)||No||Yes|
Windscribe’s streaming support is clearly lacking. All I was able to get working was Netflix US. Windscribe is, in my opinion, more focused on privacy and security than streaming. There are a number of VPN providers taking this approach, as supporting streaming over VPN is becoming more and more challenging with each passing day.
Hotspot Shield’s streaming support is quite a bit better. Clearly, streaming is higher on its radar than Windscribe, as it also provides dedicated streaming servers in its apps.
You can look at our recommended VPN providers for streaming if streaming over VPN is important to you.
Here’s something else you don’t see every day: Both Windscribe and Hotspot Shield work in China. However, because working out of China is hit and miss, and there are a lot of variables at play, neither provider makes a big splash about it in their marketing.
It’s getting increasingly difficult to bypass China’s censorship, and you tend to see fewer and fewer VPN providers supporting China. To many VPN providers, it just makes more business sense to invest their resources elsewhere.
You can take a look at our post listing the best VPN providers that work in China. Make sure to download your VPN apps before traveling to China, as they are likely blocked from within the country.
Setup and interface
|Automatic setup wizard||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, AndroidTV, Amazon FireTV|
|Main location selection||List-based||List-based|
|Extra settings pages||Yes||Yes|
Both Windscribe and Hotspot Shield have well-designed desktop apps. They’re easy to understand and navigate. But because Windscribe appears to have taken a mobile app design philosophy, its UI can seem a bit cramped compared to proper desktop apps that use the bigger screen’s real estate.
Hotspot Shield’s app, mainly due to its larger UI, is more straightforward and easier to navigate. The app features icons on the left side of the app that you use to navigate to the app’s different sections. Server selection is list-based or task-based (for streaming or gaming). You can select your server by country and city. Or you can choose one of Hotspot Shield’s dedicated streaming servers.
Windscribe’s app is somewhat more cramped, but it’s still easy to use – it’s just uselessly small. Server selection is exclusively list-based, although you can find servers by region and drill down to a specific city. You can also have Windscribe’s app connect you automatically to the fastest server in your selected region.
Both providers’ apps have Settings pages where users can customize their settings. Windscribe exposes more options than Hotspot Shield and can accommodate more complex setups. This comes at the price of a more complicated app. But you can simply use the app without touching those settings (which are buried in the Settings pages), and everything should just work – so no worries there.
Hotspot Shield option menus are simpler and don’t go as deep as Windscribe. And that will be just fine for the overwhelming majority of users. It just depends on which type of VPN user you are. If you need lots of customization, Windscribe will be your choice. If you just want your basic “tap to connect” VPN, HSS may be the way to go.
Both Windscribe and Hotspot Shield offer mobile apps for iOS and Android. Both mobile apps are easy to understand and use. And both are designed to work well on smaller screens.
Windscribe vs Hotspot Shield: Servers
Windscribe has what I would call a mid-sized network. It isn’t tiny, nor is it huge. Certain users (such as myself) prefer smaller networks. It makes me feel as if more care goes into each server’s configuration (it’s just an impression – not something I can verify). But that isn’t for everyone. And others would rather have a large selection of servers to choose from. Hotspot Shield’s network is the larger of the two in terms of the number of countries and servers.
If network size is central to your need, Hotspot Shield will be the one to go with here.
Below is a list of countries where each provider hosts VPN servers:
|Isle of Man||✔|
|United Arab Emirates||✔|
|VPN protocols||OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard||WireGuard, IKEv2, Catapult Hydra|
|OpenVPN data encryption||AES-256||AES-256|
|OpenVPN control channel encryption||RSA-4096||RSA-4096|
|App security||Kill switch||Kill switch|
|DNS status||Private DNS||Private DNS|
Windscribe and HSS both support secure VPN protocols. Windscribe supports OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard. Hotspot Shield supports WireGuard, IKEv2, and Catapult Hydra. Catapult Hydra is Hotspot Shield’s custom VPN protocol, and I would recommend against using it. Because it’s a proprietary protocol, it can’t be publicly peer-reviewed. So there’s no way to know how secure or insecure it is. If using HSS, I’d recommend sticking to either IKEv2 or WireGuard.
Both providers use 256-bit AES encryption with 4096-bit RSA keys for OpenVPN (Windscribe only) andIKEv2. WireGuard uses other ciphers that are also very secure.
Regarding kill switch functionality, both providers include a kill switch in all their apps (mobile and desktop). And both provide their in-house no-logging DNS servers inside the VPN tunnel.
While both providers have similar offerings here, Windscribe takes the win due to its support for only robust and open VPN protocols.
|HQ base||Canada||United States|
|User details for sign-up||Email address||Email address|
|Anonymous payment options||Bitcoin||No|
Windscribe is based in Canada, while Hotspot Shield is based in the United States. Canada is part of the Five Eyes Alliance, which is an intelligence-sharing network between member nations, including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, which heads the organization. So neither jurisdiction is ideal for privacy.
- Connection timestamp
- Amount of data transferred
- Number of simultaneous connections
- Session durations
- Domains accessed by users (claimed to be anonymized data)
- Device hashes
HSS states that it doesn’t collect your IP address when you go about your browsing activities, but it does collect it for the following reasons:
- To protect against fraud
- To obtain your location and information on your ISP/carrier
- To determine nearby servers
- For advertising purposes
That’s too much data collection for me. And many well-established VPN providers do fine without this kind of collection. Hopefully, Hotspot Shield will tone down its data collection in the future.
Windscribe takes it for privacy.
|Address allocation||Shared or private (add-on)||Shared|
|Static IP address possible||No||No|
|Ad & malware blocking||Yes||No|
Shared IP addresses will always be better for privacy than dedicated IP addresses. Shared IP addresses are, well, shared. All the users of a given VPN server are assigned the same public IP address. So all those users’ traffic appears to come from the same device. And correlating that traffic to an individual user is much harder.
Both Windscribe and Hotspot Shield provide their users with shared IP addresses out of the box. Windscribe offers dedicated IP addresses as a paid add-on. A private VPN IP address can be useful if you host your own servers and want them accessible from the internet. With a dedicated IP address from Windscribe, your servers could be reachable over the internet and would benefit from the VPN’s enhanced security.
Windscribe is the only one of the two to provide an ad and malware blocker. Windscribe’s ad blocker works using DNS blackholing. DNS blackholing checks your DNS requests against a list of known ad networks and malware domains and blocks any matches. It’s a valuable feature that I use every day.
|Average email response time||2.6 days||2.5 days|
|Searchable knowledge base||Yes||Yes|
Both Windscribe and Hotspot Shield offer email support and provide a searchable knowledge base for the most common issues on their websites. Windscribe also supports live chat, which is nice.
To test each provider’s response time with customer service emails, we sent them each three questions in three distinct emails. The first two questions are common and should be easy to answer even without extensive networking knowledge. The third question is more challenging by design to see if their support reps can handle more complex questions. And note that the third question we sent each provider is different because they support different features.
The results are below:
|Question||Initial response time||Number of emails||Question answered|
|What kind of logs does Windscribe keep?||2 days||1||Yes|
|Can I install Windscribe on a DD-WRT router?||3 days||1||Yes|
|What's the difference between the Windscribe app and the browser extension?||3 days||1||Yes|
|Question||Initial response time||Number of emails||Question answered|
|Question What kind of logs does Hotspot Shield keep?||6 days||1||Yes|
|Question Can I install Hotspot Shield on a DD-WRT router?||33 hours||1||Yes|
|Question What is the difference between a proxy server and a VPN?||Never answered||1||No|
So neither Windscribe nor HSS provides what I would call speedy support. The delay time is in days rather than hours. Despite that, Windscribe still managed to outdo Hotspot Shield. It answered all of my emails within three days. HSS, for its part, answered one within two days, a second one within six days, and never answered the third one.
Both providers’ answers were polite and informative. But Windscribe’s answers were more detailed and demonstrated a better understanding of VPNs and networking in general. Because of that – and the fact that it actually answered all of my support queries – Windscribe takes the win here as well.
Windscribe vs Hotspot Shield: The winner
Money-back guarantee: 3 DAYS
So Windscribe is the winner. Overall, it’s the better choice – whether you’re an advanced user or not.
Hotspot Shield’s streaming support is better, but it won’t be enough to put it over the edge. Its customer support is lacking, and custom VPN protocols are just a bad idea for the reasons I explained above.
Windscribe’s security and privacy practices are more robust than HSS – and it collects less user data.
Windscribe takes it because:
- It has excellent security and privacy practices.
- Windscribe only uses secure, open-source VPN protocols (no custom protocols).
- It provides an ad and malware blocker
- Windscribe is cheaper on most subscription plans.
VPN users will be better served with Windscribe.