HideMyAss Review 2018
Hide My Ass has launched new apps for both mobile and desktop devices this year. But while there is a new look, their service remains largely unchanged.
- Nicely designed and easy to use apps.
- 30-day money back guarantee and a 30-day free trial.
- The biggest range of servers and locations around.
- Expensive for the service offered.
- Speeds are mediocre.
- Poor privacy protections.
- Unspecified use of virtual servers.
Hide My Ass is one of the most recognisable names, and indeed logos, on the VPN market. They are a long-term provider and are popular with users around the world. But how does their service stack up? And what changes have they made to things over the past twelve months?
HMA continues to offer the usual three levels of pricing with prices available for one-month, six-months, and twelve-months subscription packages:
- One Month: A one-month subscription plan currently costs US$11.99 (~ £9.01)
- Six Month: A six-month subscription plan will currently cost $7.99 a month (~ £6), made as a bi-annual payment of $47.94
- Annual: A twelve-month subscription plan to their full service for US$6.99 a month (~£5.25), made as an annual payment of $83.88
These prices represent a small increase on last year, which we already considered to be fairly high. But HMA has made some changes to their service over the past twelve months, so in this review, we will consider whether those prices are justified.
HMA does offer a 30-day free trial, which is a great feature, but users should beware that if they forget to cancel they will be billed for an annual subscription. There is also a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Payment is accepted via all major credit and debit cards, PayPal, Alipay, and Union Pay, but they seem to no longer accept Bitcoin payments which is a blow to privacy-conscious users.
They also continue to use an external company, Avangate to process subscriber payments. While Avangate states that it complies with all online security standards, it does not provide any further details, and again privacy-conscious users may be wary.
HMA claims to offer access to more than 880 servers located in more than 280 locations in more than 190 countries around the world. This is only a slight increase on last year, which suggests that over the past twelve months HMA haven’t been quite so focused on expanding their network coverage.
This may sound like a great network and certainly blows every other VPN out of the water in terms of global coverage. But there is a caveat. HMA is one of the most prolific users of virtual servers.
Virtual servers are not actually physically located in the country they claim but are spoofing their location. The flaw with this approach is that virtual servers can suffer from poor performance, and also affect the performance of servers in the countries where they are physically located too.
HMA has not yet confirmed which of its servers are virtual and which are genuine, which is not exactly transparent of them. Other providers such as ExpressVPN have been upfront about this and allowed users to make an informed choice.
HMA does offer a Kill Switch feature, which is becoming standard practice with almost all VPNs these days. However, this does not appear to be available on their mobile apps which seems like an oversight.
We noted last year that the HMA service appears to have been streamlined in the interests of simplicity and usability and this remains the case.
The anonymous email service we referenced last year has now been decommissioned. But they do still offer a free proxy service, although this is totally separate from their VPN service.
So, when judging HMA these days, they basically have to live or die by the quality of their VPN service alone.
HMA has also updated their mobile apps. These are available for Apple iOS and Android devices, but I was testing on the iOS one.
This app was almost identical to the desktop version. It uses the same three main functions (Instant Mode, Location Mode, and Freedom Mode) and also has a near-identical design.
The only difference could be found in the settings menu, which was lacking a few features that were available on the desktop. There is no diagnostics tab and features such as the Kill Switch also appear to be missing.
In general, the mobile apps are every bit as simple and effective as their desktop equivalent, but the lack of a few settings options is a pity.
HMA also offers redesigned dedicated apps for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux desktop devices. These apps have been refreshed over the past twelve months as HMA has moved away from its rather lurid custard yellow branding to an altogether classier royal blue look.
This is reflected in the desktop apps. We tested the Windows app which opens onto a clean blue homepage. HMA still use three modes in their app for different functions. The app opens into Instant Mode, which allows you to connect to their service with a single click.
Location Mode lets you choose which country, location, or server you want to connect to. Meanwhile, Freedom Mode will automatically connect you to the nearest server in a country which has free-speech and open internet access.
In the top-left of the app are the various settings options, where you can set up your preferences and access additional features as well as contact customer support and manage your account.
We were pretty impressed with their old desktop app and in revamping it, they seem to have done a good job in retaining all the main features and its overall simplicity, while making it substantially more aesthetically pleasing.
A downside to HMA’s huge network of servers is that it can be very hard to make a general assessment of their overall connection speeds. As we have mentioned, virtual servers can not only be slow themselves but also slow down other services too. You just don’t know where they’re physically located. But was that reflected in our testing?
Well, unfortunately, yes it was. We tested HMA from a location in East Asia using the OpenVPN protocol and connecting to servers in the East Asia region as well as popular locations such as the USA and UK.
Bizarrely, HMA found that the fastest server available to us in East Asia was located in the Czech Republic. However, while the speeds this server offered were adequate, they didn’t exactly amaze us with their speed.
The same was true with servers located in this region too, while the USA and UK servers varied in quality with some being reasonably fast, while others were distinctly slow.
However, most connections were perfectly acceptable for everyday internet use and even streaming video content. HMA does not claim to be the fastest VPN in the world and makes more of a push for its global coverage. Based on our testing, it is right to do this.
Encryption & Policies:
HMA uses OpenVPN as its default protocol, but both PPTP and L2TP/IPSec are also available.
Their OpenVPN uses the AES 256-bit cypher, which is pretty much standard across the industry these days and more than satisfactory for a regular provider like HMA.
They do also acknowledge the security flaws in PPTP these days too. While it is still available, they do caution that it should only be used for faster connections and not for anything which requires a secure connection.
The HMA encryption levels are now acceptable and it is encouraging to see that their information in this area does now reflect industry standards, which was not always the case before.
They confirm that they record an IP Address and a time-stamp when every user connects and disconnects from their server. This information is kept along with details of the HMA IP Address that you connect to.
This data is retained for up to two months with HMA justifying the practice by saying it helps them to prevent spam, fraud or abuse of their site and service.
They insist that they do not retain details of the websites that users visit, but even if that is true, this policy is deeply unsatisfactory and means that HMA is certainly not a viable option for any privacy-conscious users.
HMA has revamped its apps and the new blue look is smart and impressive. But other than its visual appearance, nothing much else has changed.
For the prices HMA charge, we would expect a lot more. HMA comes across as a provider which is trying hard but is still trading on its memorable name and quirky logo rather than the quality of the service they provide.
- If you’re looking for an even better VPN service check out our IPVanish Review.