UPDATED April 5, 2019 with additional client software platforms and server locations. This review was originally published on June 20, 2018.
Hide.me bills itself as the "World's Fastest VPN," but we didn't find that to be the case. Its speeds were just about average in our tests, and likewise, its free 2GB of data per month is more than some rivals offer but less than what others provide.
On the plus side, Hide.me is a full-featured, flexible VPN provider with many attractive features and it might be worth considering as a paid service. But we'd put off using its free offering until we'd used up our 10GB free monthly allowance from Windscribe, which we think offers the best free VPN service.
Free vs. Freemium VPN
We can't recommend any entirely free VPN services, because too many of them borrow your bandwidth, sell your browsing histories, inject ads into websites, or are fake or malicious. Running a network of VPN servers costs a lot, and if you're not paying a service, it’s using you to make money.
Many paid VPN services have limited free teaser plans that either throttle your network speed or cap the amount of data you can use. We recommend using one or more of these if you're on a laptop and connecting to free Wi-Fi in a coffee shop, airport or hotel.
MORE: Free vs. Paid VPNs: Which Should You Choose?
However, none of these limited free plans is ideal for 24/7 home VPN connections. For that, it's better to just pay for a fast, unlimited service.
What You Get for Free
The Hide.me free service provides up to 2GB a month of data, which isn't much but is more than what you'll get from some other free tiers. The Premium unlimited-data service costs $9.99 a month, but there's also a Plus plan that gives you 75GB of data per month, more than enough for most people, for $4.99.
Both paid plans give you a choice of more than 55 server locations to connect to. The free plans limit you to servers in the Netherlands, Singapore, Canada and the United States. But you do get the right to contact Hide.me's tech-support staff, an unusual feature for a free tier.
Hide.me has a privacy-check feature that examines your VPN connection and provides details such as whether your location is hidden, where you're connected to the internet and whether you're using IPv6. It's a nice way to make sure you're securely online. The company is headquartered in Malaysia, out of reach of U.S. law-enforcement search warrants.
Hide.me provides a wide selection of VPN client software, including not only the usual Windows, macOS, iOS and Android clients, but also apps for Windows Phone 10, Microsoft Surface and, as of January 2019, Android TV, Amazon Fire Stick and Amazon Fire Tablet.
The website has detailed instructions for setting up manual connections to Hide.me servers for most of the above platforms, as well as for Linux; BlackBerry; and routers that use OpenWrt, DD-WRT, AsusWRT, pfSense or Tomato open-source firmware.
You can use a wide variety of VPN protocols with Hide.me, including IKEv2/IPsec (recommended), IKEv1/IPsec, OpenVPN, SSTP, PPTP and L2TP/IPsec, as well as the jack-of-all-trades SoftEther client software.
MORE: What is a VPN (Virtual Private Network)?
Not all protocol choices are possible for each platform, but there are no protocol limitations otherwise for free users. An informative Hide.me web page explains the differences among the various protocols.
We tested the free offerings of nine different VPN services — Avira Phantom VPN, Hide.me, Hotspot Shield, the Opera browser VPN, ProtonVPN, Speedify, SurfEasy, TunnelBear and Windscribe — using an HP EliteBook X360 1020 G2 notebook in a home in suburban New York provisioned with regular, consumer-grade cable broadband.
Ookla's Speedtest was used to measure each VPN service's network latency (delay), upload speeds and download speeds. Each speed test was run three times per service, and baseline network speeds were measured before the start of each round of tests.
We got Hide.me's 6MB installation package up and running in 6.5 minutes on our HP EliteBook laptop, including creating an account. Hide.me's desktop interface doesn't run full screen, but it's got enough room to display your IP address, connection location and whether you're using the VPN (indicated by a green check mark).
We chose Hide.me's Canadian servers for testing, but the network still took a long 9.5 seconds to connect, which was the longest time of all of the nine free VPN plans we tested. The Canadian server had an average latency (how long it took to respond) of 48.8 milliseconds; this was three times the pre-VPN level but not the worst among the services we tested.
Data downloaded at an average speed of 56.1 Mbps when we were connected to Hide.me's network, a decline of 68 percent from the baseline and very close to the average 65-percent decline among the eight regular free VPN services. (The ninth service, Speedify, uses unique network tricks, and we considered its amazing scores separately.)
Hide,me's uploads averaged 23.5 Mbps, down 28 percent from pre-VPN levels but better than the 34 percent average. Those two speed results put Hide.me in about the middle of our pack of free VPN services. But it was only a little faster then ProtonVPN, whose free tier, while much slower than ProtonVPN's paid services, puts no limits on data usage.
We really wanted to like Hide.me's free offering, because it is platform-flexible, doesn't choke speed and even offers tech support. But Windscribe's free tier has similar features and is faster and much more generous with data.
Client platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Microsoft Surface
Protocols: PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, IKEv1/IPsec IKEv2/IPsec, SSTP, OpenVPN
Restriction: 2GB of data per month
Credit: Tom's Guide
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