This Malaysia-based VPN isn’t the perfect all-rounder, but its distinctive strengths make it well worth a look
- Generous free tier
- Excellent feature set
- Reassuring security profile
- Shorter plans are expensive
- Slower than other VPNs
- Didn’t unblock all streaming services
Hide.me is a VPN service that can protect your privacy and disguise your location by routing your internet connection through a secure remote server. Its strong encryption means that even your ISP can’t monitor what you’re doing online, and by choosing a server in a different country you can gain access to websites and streaming services that aren’t normally accessible in your location.
One thing that’s immediately unusual about Hide.me is that you don’t need to pay to use it: you can sign up for a free account and enjoy secure browsing forever. However, free users get only five locations to choose from – in Canada, Germany and the Netherlands, plus two servers in the USA – and are limited to 10GB of data transfer per month. That’s plenty for posting messages anonymously or checking websites that are blocked in your location, but if you want to use the VPN for peer-to-peer downloading it’ll get eaten up pretty quickly, and video streaming isn’t permitted at all.
A Hide.me paid subscription lifts all of those restrictions. You can choose from the full set of 2,000 servers in 47 different countries, use as much data as you like, and connect up to ten different devices at once.
Hide.me offers apps for Windows, macOS and Linux, plus Android, iOS and Fire TV devices. There are extensions for the Chrome, Edge and Firefox browsers too, or you can configure your router to use the VPN connection for all your network traffic. Since Hide.me supports the L2TP and PPTP protocols, you can even set it up on many routers that don’t have native VPN support. These protocols aren’t entirely secure, but they should be fine for whole-home location spoofing.
While Hide.me isn’t a particularly cheap VPN, there are regular deals that can make it reasonable value. At the time of writing a monthly subscription costs £9.99, but you can sign up for a full year for £79.99, equivalent to £6.66 a month. The best deal is a two-year subscription at £99.99, which works out to a very reasonable £4.16 per month. For comparison, a two-year subscription to NordVPN comes to just £2.49 a month – but Hide.me does include a bonus 2TB of cloud storage, which could be handy for backups.
Hide.me review: What’s it like to use?
We tried out the Hide.me app for Windows, and to be honest we found it a bit confusing. The window opens with a big button in the middle labelled “Enable VPN”; this connects you to the last location you used, which is shown in the bottom-right corner of the window. At the bottom-left, you can see your current location and IP address as it appears to external sites, while buttons at the top corners give access to notifications and advanced settings.
It’s a lot to take in, but after a little clicking around you’ll get the hang of it. Clicking the Change button switches you to the Location Selection view; by default this displays a long list of countries, some of which can be expanded to select individual towns. A ping time is shown for each server, so you can immediately see which location is likely to be most responsive.
There’s also a list of servers that are optimised for particular video streaming services in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Turkey the UK and the US – and if you click on the Multihop tab you can define your own double-VPN route, from a choice of 68 entry points around the world and 104 exit points. While this will be overkill for most people, it gives you a lot more control than most VPNs when it comes to covering your tracks. Another distinctive touch is that, while there’s no true static IP option, you can keep your external address consistent across sessions by reconnecting to a specific server.
Once you’re connected, the Details button in the main interface takes you to a web page that pinpoints your virtual location on a map, and shows all the other information external servers can see about you. It’s interesting to see that this includes an IPv6 address – unlike many VPNs, Hide.me fully supports both new and legacy IP standards. The page includes links to free DNS and WebRTC leak tests too, so you can confirm the security of your own connection.
In the top-right of the main app interface, you’ll see the final two icons. The little beaker takes you to the Labs settings, where you can try out features that are still in beta, while clicking on the cog icon opens the full Settings page – which includes the Labs page, making the first icon rather redundant.
There are plenty of controls to explore. You can configure custom DNS settings, and tell the software whether or not to automatically enable the VPN for multiple types of known and unknown network. A split-tunnelling option lets you specify which apps should always or never use the secure connection, and if you want to find your own balance of speed and security there are five protocols to choose from – including a seldom-seen SoftEther option, which can be particularly effective at getting through firewalls.
The Android client looks similar, but in our view it’s more logically laid out. Here, the Location and Settings buttons are along the bottom of the screen, with the Notifications feed moved onto the Settings page. You get the same extensive auto-connect options – with an option for mobile data connections too – plus kill-switch and split-tunnelling options. The mix-and-match Multihop feature is available too.
In short, whether you’re using it on desktop or mobile, Hide.me is one of the most configurable VPNs around – and if you need help, there’s 24/7 live chat support, as well as the option to open a request for assistance via a form on the website.
Hide.me review: How fast is it?
In the past we’ve found Hide.me to be a fast VPN, but our most recent tests showed a drop-off in performance. We tested this using the Google Speed Test tool on a Windows 11 laptop, connected to a domestic Virgin fibre line.
Without the VPN connected, we recorded a download speed of 214Mbits/sec; once we’d connected to a Hide.me server in London, this fell to 153Mbits/sec. That’s still enough bandwidth for almost any purpose, but it’s a big drop compared to other VPNs: ExpressVPN and NordVPN both topped 200Mbits/sec in the same configuration.
Switching to Hide.me’s New York server yielded a slightly lower download speed of 141Mbits/sec. Again, that’s fine, but we’ve seen much better performance elsewhere, with the abovementioned rivals delivering 187Mbits/sec and 196Mbits/sec respectively.
We also tested the VPN on a Samsung Galaxy Tab S7, running Android 12. With the VPN disabled, we got a download speed of 205Mbits/sec on this device; connecting through a UK server gave us a mediocre 156Mbits/sec, while choosing a server in the US saw that fall further to 107Mbits/sec.
The good news is that, as we mentioned earlier, the Hide.me software supports split tunnelling on both desktop and mobile platforms. This means that only the apps that need to go via the VPN will be slowed down; everything else can continue to use the full bandwidth of your ISP connection.
Hide.me review: Is it good for video streaming?
It’s generally reckoned that a 25Mbits/sec connection is fast enough to stream 4K video in HDR, and the connection speeds we saw using Hide.me were well in excess of that. However, we found the range of video services on offer was something of a disappointment.
Connecting a Windows laptop to a US-based Hide.me server enabled us to access the American libraries of Netflix and Disney Plus in a web browser, and the optimised streaming servers also promise access to US-only services like ESPN, HBO Go and Hulu. However, we weren’t able to use a UK server to watch home-grown content: BBC iPlayer, BritBox and NOW all detected the VPN and refused to play – a blow to holidaymakers and expatriates.
We then tried switching to the native streaming apps on our Android tablet. Again, none of the UK-based services was accessible – and even when we connected to a US server, Netflix continued to offer us the UK library. The one positive was that we were able to watch US Disney Plus shows on the tablet – although to be honest there isn’t much content on that service that isn’t available in the UK.
Right now, therefore, Hide.me wouldn’t be our first choice for unblocking streaming services. There are plenty of competitors that work with more services across both PC and mobile devices.
Hide.me review: Is it secure?
Hide.me’s company headquarters is in Malaysia, far away from the British authorities and well outside the “Five Eyes” and other data-sharing alliances. That means that you can be pretty confident that no one in Europe or the US will get their hands on the company’s records.
Even if they do, the company promises that it doesn’t monitor your activity and doesn’t keep records of the sites you’ve been accessing. Hide.me has even been audited and certified by an independent security expert to confirm that no user data is stored – although that was back in 2015, so it’s not quite as impressive a NordVPN, which was audited by PwC in 2018, and then again in 2020.
As we’ve mentioned, the Hide.me software itself also has plenty of features to safeguard your privacy. The multi-hop feature applies a double layer of obfuscation to your location, while the auto-connection options and kill-switch help ensure that you’ll never accidentally send sensitive information over an unencrypted link.
Hide.me review: Should you buy it?
Hide.me’s subscription packages are comparatively expensive, especially if you’re not looking for a long-term deal. We weren’t able to unblock all video streaming services with it, and we found it wasn’t particularly fast either.
Yet Hide.me does have its strengths. For occasional use, the free 10GB tier is an outstanding offer. And when it comes to advanced features, Hide.me is one of the most comprehensive and configurable VPNs we’ve seen. We love the way you can tweak its behaviour to achieve your perfect balance of security and speed, and the fixed IP and IPv6 options mean it’s more likely than most to cope with tricky servers.
So while Hide.me isn’t ideal for beginners or video junkies, it definitely has a place of its own in the VPN pantheon. For technical users, it may well be worth the money for a VPN service that puts you firmly in the driving seat.