Whatever you want from a VPN, you’re likely to do better elsewhere
- Strong speeds
- User-friendly interface
- Huge geographical spread of servers
- Limited streaming support
- Subject to EU laws
The acronym HMA stands for “Hide My Ass”, and the brand’s website is covered in jokey donkey imagery. It’s a serious VPN, though, fully capable of concealing your online activity by encrypting your internet traffic and routing it through its own secure gateways. Connection speeds of up to 20Gbits/sec are claimed, and the company operates more than a thousand servers across 210 countries and territories, so you can virtually locate yourself almost anywhere in the world.
HMA is also one of the very few VPNs to offer an up-front free trial – you can sign up for seven days and cancel during that period to ensure you’re not charged. Otherwise you’ll pay £39.48 for a year’s service (equivalent to £3.29 a month) or £86.04 for three years, which works out to a very competitive £2.39 a month.
Those prices permit up to five simultaneous connections, with client apps offered for all the major desktop and mobile platforms along with a Chrome extension that lets you control the VPN from your browser. HMA also offers ten-connection options which work out to £5.99 a month and £4.59 per month respectively – or you can configure the VPN on your router and send all your traffic over a single secure connection. HMA can be used with a wide range of routers as it supports the L2TP and PPTP protocols; note that the latter has comparatively weak security, but it should be fine if you just want to spoof your location.
While HMA doesn’t offer any guarantees about BitTorrent or video streaming support, the VPN doesn’t block file-sharing connections, and the publisher’s website includes tips on getting access to popular streaming services. If you hit any problems then technical support is as usual available via 24/7 live chat.
HMA VPN review: What’s it like to use?
The HMA Windows app opens with a big, obvious on/off switch for the VPN connection. It’s clear and easy for beginners, but there’s also a discreet “More” button in the corner, which opens up a side panel with additional options. Here you can see data transfer stats, run a live speed test and tweak your kill-switch and auto-connect options.
If you just hit the Connect button, HMA will use “Lightning Connect” mode, which automatically diverts your traffic through the fastest server available. The donkey dons a cute disguise to represent that your location is being hidden.
To choose a specific location you can simply click the Server panel; this opens up a list of more than 290 countries and cities, allowing you to pick a server by location, or browse servers that are specifically optimised for media streaming and torrenting. It’s all very accessible, but it’s a shame there’s no indication of the speed of all these different servers, as offered by the likes of IPVanish and PureVPN.
The Android app looks almost identical, although in place of the “More” side-panel, it offers three icons at the bottom which switch between interface pages. There’s not much in the way of advanced options on either platform, but we like the way you can set the kill-switch to suspend traffic only for specified apps if the VPN connection is lost, rather than cutting off the whole computer. In all, we found HMA quite accessible and user-friendly.
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HMA VPN review: How fast is it?
Using a VPN unavoidably impacts your internet speeds, but some providers are faster than others. We tested HMA’s performance on a domestic Virgin fibre broadband line, using the Google Speed Test service on both a Windows 11 laptop and an Android tablet.
Performance on Windows was very good. With the VPN disconnected, the Speed Test tool reported a download speed of 214Mbits/sec. We then engaged “Lightning Connect”, which sensibly chose a server in London (where we’re also located); this resulted in a download rate of 202Mbits/sec. That’s one of the best performances we’ve seen, with very little scope for any other VPN to do better. That’s just as well, as weirdly HMA’s Windows client doesn’t support split tunnelling – it’s only available in the Android app.
Switching location to the USA predictably incurred a bigger performance penalty. We chose the New York server, and measured download speeds at 142Mbits/sec. That’s still plenty of bandwidth for most things you’ll want to do online, but it’s less exceptional: ExpressVPN managed 187Mbits/sec in this test, while NordVPN delivered a magnificent 196Mbits/sec.
Testing on Android went well too. Using the HMA app on a Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 tablet we got 194Mbits/sec downstream from HMA’s London server, and a solid 118Mbit/sec via New York. Those are good usable speeds, and since split tunnelling is available for mobile apps, you can circumvent the VPN for anything performance-critical.
HMA VPN review: Is it good for video streaming?
HMA is certainly fast enough for video streaming, and once we’d connected our Windows laptop to the New York server we were pleased to find that we could browse the US libraries of Disney+ and Netflix without a hitch. If you have a US Hulu subscription then this too can be accessed through HMA. If you do hit a problem, the main HMA window includes a helpful “Refresh IP” button, so it’s a piece of cake to obtain a new IP address in the same region and try again.
Unfortunately things didn’t go so well with UK streaming sites. BBC iPlayer refused to work, insisting that we weren’t in the UK even when we were connected to a UK server. We tried switching to the virtual “Donkey Town” location, which is supposedly optimised for streaming, but it didn’t help. We weren’t able to watch Now TV either, although BritBox was accessible.
We hit more problems on Android. The VPN enabled us to access US-only titles in the Disney+ app – not that there’s all that many of them – but the Netflix app refused to connect at all while the VPN was active, and we weren’t able to get into Hulu either. We were shut out of all three British streaming services too, making this test a near-total bust.
In all, it’s hard to recommend HMA for streaming. No VPN can guarantee consistent access to geo-restricted content, but we’ve had better luck with other services, such as our streaming favourite ExpressVPN.
HMA VPN review: Is it secure?
Like most VPNs, HMA proudly advertises that it doesn’t keep records of IP addresses, browsing histories or transferred data. However, the company is owned by Czech security specialist Avast, which is currently seeking a merger with US-based Norton – and many of its operations remain in the UK, where it was founded. These countries all cooperate and share intelligence, so if the authorities were to take an interest in your activity, they could in theory compel HMA to dob you in. That’s why other VPNs have set up in more privacy-friendly jurisdictions: for example, Hide.me VPN is based in Malaysia, while PureVPN operates out of the British Virgin Islands.
Still, the HMA software has some good features to help prevent you from accidentally leaking your own identity. We’ve mentioned the kill-switch, and the smart auto-connect feature gives you the option of engaging the VPN automatically when you connect to a network that you haven’t explicitly marked as private. While there’s no multi-hop or double-VPN option, your IP address can be changed to a user-definable schedule, making it hard for remote servers to track you.
HMA VPN review: Should you buy it?
HMA is a fast VPN with impressive global reach. It’s also one of the most user-friendly VPNs around, and if five simultaneous connections is enough for you then the pricing is attractive too.
Unfortunately it has two big problems. While the large number of servers might seem attractive for location spoofing, we found HMA did poorly at unblocking the most popular streaming services. Conversely, if you’re more interested in the privacy benefits of a VPN, it’s probably safer to use a service that’s beyond the reach of European and American authorities.
Disappointingly, therefore, we have to suggest that most people looking for a VPN should give HMA a miss and choose a provider that’s more in tune with their needs.
HMA VPN review: Quick facts
|Based in:||Czechia / UK|
|Cheapest price:||£2.39/month (three-year subscription)|
|Money-back guarantee:||30 days|
|24/7 customer support:||Y|
|Netflix and Disney+:||Y / Y|