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 spread across 75 locations. That’s not bad at all, but the likes of ExpressVPN (3,000+ servers across 94 countries) and CyberGhost (8,900 in 91) 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.
Advanced features 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 identify who you are. Some VPNs have similar features – NordVPN’s Double VPN, for example – but they often restrict the servers you can use. Hide.me is unusually flexible, and enables choosing any entry or exit server from Hide.me’s full location list.
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.
Furthermore, 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 improvements include the upgrade of many more locations from 1Gbps to 10Gbps. There are now 22 of these, but conveniently, Hide.me highlights its 10G servers in the apps, so they’re very easy to spot.
Hide.me’s monthly plan (opens in new tab) is fairly priced at $9.95. Most providers charge somewhere in the $10-$13 range, although a few are significantly cheaper (Mullvad asks around $6).
The annual plan (opens in new tab) is available for a relatively expensive $6.66 a month. That does get you a valuable extra in 2TB of Internxt cloud storage for a year, worth $8.99 a month if you bought it direct from Internxt. But if you don’t need the storage, there are far better deals elsewhere. Others typically charge $4-5 for annual subscriptions, and a few cost even less (you’ll pay a monthly $3.33 for Private Internet Access, $3.29 for Atlas VPN).
The two-year plan (opens in new tab) offers the best value at $3.45 ($3.75 on renewal), but again, there’s a lot of cash to be saved elsewhere. Atlas VPN’s three-year plan costs $1.99 a month, for instance. Looking at the totals, paying $99.95 to Hide.me gets you coverage for two years with two months free – but three years protection at Atlas VPN costs $71.49.
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. (As long as you’ve never had a refund from Hide.me previously, anyway – you’re only allowed one, ever.)
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, unusually – 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 (opens in new tab), 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 has a clear and straightforward interface. A large Enable button plugs you into the nearest server; the full location list (countries, expandable to cities in some cases) is just a click away; and the latest version adds a simple navigation bar with buttons for various locations, the settings and more.
The flexible location list can display your options by name, or ping time to show the fastest servers at the top. Beginning to type a city and country name displays any matches (typing MIA alone shows Miami, for instance), 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 Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and United States.
Connection times were good in most cases, with WireGuard getting us online in around a second, and even OpenVPN connecting in 4-6 seconds (we’ve seen other providers take two to four times as long).
Even if connections take longer, the app makes good use of notifications to keep you informed about what it’s doing. Switch back to your other apps, and Hide.me will let you know when you’re protected, and when you’re not.
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 almost 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.
There’s a lot to explore, and sometimes we couldn’t remember where to find a particular setting. Fortunately, the app has a settings Search box. If you know you want to customize the Best Location feature, just type ‘best’ in the Search box, click the link, and the app will take you to the right page, and even highlight the option for you. A neat touch we’ve not seen with anyone else.
Hide.me’s Windows app stands out for its low-level technical tweaks, but the Mac version doesn’t quite match its level of power.
You can’t tell this from the interface, which is a near clone of the Windows edition. If it wasn’t for the color and position of the close and minimize buttons, you would struggle to tell them apart.
Click Settings, and you’ll find a decent number of advanced options. WireGuard, OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocol support; a kill switch; auto-connect when you access untrusted networks; and split tunneling. Furthermore, if anything doesn’t work as expected, you can even raise a ticket from within the app.
But there are also a lot of advanced Windows features which haven’t made it to the Mac. There’s no VPN-wide custom DNS option; no custom MTU; no way to tweak how Best Location is chosen; no Hide.me Bolt speedups; no IPv6 tunnel option; no IKEv2 configuration tweaks; and no real kill switch configurability beyond on or off.
If you’re not interested in VPN technicalities then none of that is likely to matter very much, and this is still a quality Mac app. It’s not difficult to use, performance is good, and it has more features than most.
But it also doesn’t stand out in quite the same way. The Windows app has tweaks and settings you won’t find anywhere else; the Mac edition is much closer to the competition.
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 kill switch by manually closing WireGuard, OpenVPN and IKEv2 connections 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.
The kill switch didn’t always work when we switched locations, though. The app appears to close the first connection, then try to connect to the new server, and our device was sometimes able to use its regular internet connection until the tunnel was re-established.
This is unlikely to be a big issue for most users. If you’ve decided to switch locations, that’s a very strong indication that you’ve finished your torrenting, your online banking or whatever else you’re trying to protect, and a few seconds of unprotected internet access may not matter at all.
It is still a weakness, though, and one that could be a concern in the most privacy-critical situations.
Netflix and streaming
Most VPNs claim they can help you access geoblocked websites, and Hide.me is no exception, with the company promising that you’ll ‘avoid annoying censorship.’
And this turned out to be correct, as Hide.me got us access to Netflix in the US, UK, Australia, Canada and Japan.
It scored with our other test US platforms, too, working with both Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus.
The good news kept coming, too. Not only did Hide.me unblock BBC iPlayer, ITV and Channel 4 in the UK, but it delivered with Australia’s 9Now and 10 play, too.
That’s a perfect 100% unblocking score, a great result. Hide.me did just as well in our last review, too, which suggests the company didn’t just get lucky – it’s working hard to unblock everything possible, and then make sure those services stay available long-term.
(If you plan on testing Hide.me for yourself, keep in mind that you only get this level of success from the paid product – the 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 a UK data center, a UK home with a Three 5G broadband router capable of 250-300Mbps, and a US home with a 1Gbps cable connection.
Hide.me’s data center results were unexpected. WireGuard speeds reached a decent mid-range 570-610Mbps, but switching to OpenVPN and enabling Bolt got us an amazing 880Mbps. OpenVPN is usually less than half WireGuard speeds, so what was going on?
Investigating, although we’d selected OpenVPN, the OpenVPN system process wasn’t running. Maybe the app wasn’t using OpenVPN, after all. This confusion could be a problem in itself (choose a specific protocol and that’s what the app should run), but in this case, we’re not going to complain – the excellent top speed is what really matters.
Most people don’t have data center levels of connectivity at home, of course, so we also tested Hide.me with a Three UK 5G broadband modem. With the VPN turned off, our connection reached 265Mbps. When we turned Hide.me on, we still got 210Mbps. That’s the best result we’ve seen in our last 10 tests, though only by a very small margin (most VPNs score in the 150-200Mbps range).
Hide.me did 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, which unblocks almost everything and has an array of unusual and advanced features – in short, one of the best VPNs around for more experienced and demanding users. If you’re looking for power then go check out the free version right now, see what it can do for you.