- Server Locations: There are 280+ server locations under the network, which tells a lot about the service. They have more than 880 servers, and the user has a lot of options at his/her disposal all the time.
- Fast: With HMA! Users get high speed internet connections across all the servers and modes.
- Encryption: The user’s data is wrapped inside the robust 256-bit encryption. This measure is more than enough to keep the data safe as there are way too many possible combinations for the encryption.
- P2P File Sharing: There are dedicated P2P servers, which make torrenting a lot easier on the network.
- Streaming: There are dedicated streaming servers on the network, and the users get access to a lot of geo-blocked content and can stream their favorite content online.
- 24/7 Customer Support: They offer 24/7 customer support, and the user can expect a swift response from their customer support executives. It makes the initial process of steering through the client, a lot easier.
- British Jurisdiction: The United Kingdom is one of the 5-Eyes countries, and this is not good news at all. The 5-Eyes is a group of countries which do rigorous surveillance of the internet traffic in their jurisdiction and also share this data with each another.
- Some logging: There is data logging in the form of IP addresses and time stamps which many of the true no-logs VPN providers don’t bother to collect.
- Single Protocol: The version 4 of HideMyAss! has got only OpenVPN protocol at the moment. The previous version had two more protocols along with OpenVPN, so this is effectively a downgrade from the last version.
- Missing Security Features: The client is not equipped with IPv6 leak protection or DNS leak protection, and this can be a significant chink in the armor.
Necessity is the mother of invention. A 16 years old English boy needed to bypass the restrictions imposed on his school network to access games and movies.
And voila! HideMyAss! came into existence.
The tool, which a teenage English bloke created to gain access to games and music, has now turned into a full-fledged VPN product.
This English bloke, John Cator created HideMyAss! in 2005. The product is owned by Privax, which was acquired by Avast in 2015.
Privax Limited is based in England and therefore comes under English jurisdiction. This is one of the major drawbacks of the product.
There are certain impositions, which don’t allow HideMyAss! to have a 100% no-logs policy.
HideMyAss! is one of the oldest players in the game. It seems to be undergoing some sort of remodeling at the time of this review though.
We will be reviewing the version 4 of the product.
There are a lot of features that are missing on the product, which were available in the earlier versions. However, they do promise the launch of a new version in the near-future, which will be free from all the demerits in the current version.
In this review, we will pull out all the hidden facts and features of HideMyAss! for you, and we will see if the product has still got what it takes to be one of the giants of the VPN world.
Hands down, this product has got the most impressive network when it comes to server locations. 880+ VPN servers, in280+ locations, across 190+ countries. The numbers say it all.
The servers are scattered all across the globe, and you can expect to find a server in countries, of which, you have never heard of.
These many servers reflect the vast userbase that the product has, and it should be enough to attract a whole new set of users as well.
There should be no issue with traffic density on the servers at all. The users can switch between as many servers as they want, and still, it will take them a lot of time to try all the servers at least once.
There are servers dedicated to streaming and P2P file sharing as well.
The P2P servers assist in torrenting, and the user can download torrent files with ease. It is more of a relief to find such dedicated servers when many governments are trying to ban the torrent websites in one way or the another.
The streaming servers let you bypass various geo restrictions imposed by the websites. The user can bypass the restrictions on a lot of websites, however, there can still be some streaming websites, which can prove to be a tough nut to crack.
The user can connect to the servers under the three modes available on the client.
‘Instant mode’ allows the user to access the nearest and best server available for his/her location. It is similar to the auto-connect or smart-connect option that most of the VPN providers allow on their client.
However, it is worth noticing that this might not be the physically closest or the fastest server for you, as it happened in our case. But you can expect some decent performance from these servers, and it saves a lot of time anyways.
Next is ‘Location mode’ which provides the user with a mind-boggling number of servers. In this mode, you can manually choose the server for your purpose and of your liking.
The servers in this mode have been sorted into four categories. Apart from ‘All’ and ‘Favorites’, the other two categories are ‘Streaming’ and ‘Peer to Peer’.
The segregation of streaming and P2P servers is one of those tiny details, that improves the quality of the product by quite some margin, no matter how trivial the feature might look or sound.
The streaming servers will allow users to access their favorite shows, movies, and sports tournaments. It is always better to have dedicated streaming servers rather than to go through all the severs, to find out which one is able to bypass the geo-restrictions.
The P2P servers aid in torrenting. Many governments and big enterprises are trying hard to get rid of the torrent services, mostly because of the piracy through torrents, and they have every right to stop privacy.
But not all the torrents are illegal, and there is still a lot of content which is easy to share through the P2P mode. These dedicated P2P servers provide a platform to share content on peer to peer network, without the interjections imposed by the governments and enterprises.
The third one is the ‘Freedom mode’. All of us are aware of the surveillances and data monitoring systems put in place by various governments to monitor the citizens. The 14-Eyes countries pop-up in the minds when we talk about this issue.
Governments of other than the 14-Eyes countries also monitor internet traffic in one way or the other. The examples include the strange restrictions imposed on the websites in many of the middle-east countries and the constant filtering of internet traffic in the communist nations.
These regulations are an attack on the freedom of speech of the citizens, and many people in such countries run into trouble when they try to find a voice on the internet.
The ‘Freedom mode’ is meant to find an avenue for such people and for the rest as well. This mode will connect to the servers in countries where the censorships and restrictions are not very severe. Most of such servers are located in the European Union countries.
However, you don’t get a list of these freedom mode servers, and the client connects you with the best freedom mode server for you. There is no list or criteria mentioned for the basis of selection of these freedom mode servers on the website.
We contacted the customer support in this regard, and the answer we got was not satisfactory enough to throw light on the basis of selection of these servers.
Bandwidth and Speed
There is no capping of the bandwidth or speed on HMA!. The only speed limitations that the user can experience will be the ones caused by the distance of the servers from the user, encryption-decryption and all the other sorts of processes related to a VPN.
VPNs are meant for the security and privacy of the user and his/her data online. VPN providers tend to beef up their products with as many security features as possible. But all these features go redundant if the network is not able to work at an optimum speed.
This delicate balance between speed and security is what makes a VPN excel. The best VPN services are always a combination of speed and security.
HideMyAss! provides three modes for connection to the servers, so we tested all the three modes for speed. Then there was categorization in the ‘Location mode’ so we did the testing for the dedicated servers as well.
On the ‘Instant mode’, we expected a connection to the geographically closest server, but that was not the case, and we got connected to a farther away server. The speed recorded on this mode was almost 80% of the original speed.
We then switched to the ‘Location mode’. The first server that we manually connected to was the geographically closest one.
We were not expecting anything above than 80% of the original speed, but to our surprise, this manually connected server showed 84.5% of the initial speed. These are some serious speeds that HideMyAss! was churning out.
The location mode sorts the server for streaming and P2P as well. We connected to a streaming server in the USA and got one more surprise. Even though this server was the farthest away among the all the servers we tested, it gave 86% of the original speed.
The speeds seemed to get better and better.
We were expecting another surprise when we connected to a P2P server, but there was none. The speed, however, was still more than 80% of the original speed, and we cannot have complained whatsoever about such speeds.
At last, we tested the ‘Freedom mode’. This was the worst performer among all the modes. But, if a VPN service has got the worst performer at 78% of the original speed, then you can have an idea of the kinds of high speeds you can expect from the service.
HideMyAss! came all guns blazing in the speed test. The thing which impressed us the most was the fact that the client was consistent in all the modes. The differences in speeds for various modes and servers were not very significant and that too when the speeds are so high.
Connection Time Analysis
After such impressive results in the speed test, we expected something similar in the connection time analysis as well. But HMA! was not as lightening fast here as it was in the speed tests.
However, it was not slow as well, and it was again consistent in all the three modes.
|Trial No||Instant Mode||Location Mode||Freedom Mode|
|Avg Time In Seconds||7.148||7.43||7.992|
|Time to establish a connection (seconds)|
An average connection time of around 7 seconds should not be an issue for most of the users. There is room for improvements in the connection time, and HideMyAss! should try to improve it in the coming version.
We hope that you were not expecting a 100% no-logs policy after coming across the fact that HideMyAss! is based in England.
They do not store any data related to internet traffic through the VPN tunnel which includes information related to the sites visited, data exchanged, IP addresses of the site visited, etc.
They, however, do log the timestamps, i.e. the session durations and the time of logging in and logging out. User’s IP address is also logged. This means it is not very tough for government agencies to find your exact location if they want to.
However, most of such cases only occur when the user is involved in some sort of illegal or criminal activity. But many of the whistle blowers and social activists also get exposed because of such clauses. And with the UK being a 5-Eye country, this information will be accessible by a whole lot of other agencies as well.
There is always some logging of information in case of monetary transactions with the VPN provider. This includes name, location, and other information related to the payment method.
They also keep your email address if you are one of the customers, to be able to contact you. Cookies are involved when one visits their website, and there is logging of some non-personal data as well when a person visits their website.
The privacy measures are not that rock-solid and it is tough for a user to feel that his/her personal information is safe with HMA!.
With so many years under its belt and the vast user base, one would expect that HideMyAss! must have left no stone unturned to keep their users’ privacy and data safe on the internet. But this does not appear to be the case at all.
Yes, it has got one of the safest encryptions, that is AES 256.
Yes, it has got one of the best protocols available, that is OpenVPN.
But that is just it. The user is provided with no space to play around or to customize the client according to his/her preference.
For protocols, the user gets only one option. There are so many protocols available out there, and the users deserve at least a few of them to be able to change the protocol if there is a need for it.
Some of the protocols are less safe than OpenVPN, but faster. The users can take advantage of such a product or use it in general if they prefer a bit more speed at the expense of some security.
If we move away from the topic of protocols and encryptions, then there are no other security features on the client as well.
They are missing IPv6 support and DNS leak protection. Both these features are pretty much a norm these days in the VPN clients, and all the VPN providers are expected to have these security measures in place.
There are promises of dealing with these issues in the coming version of the client, but at the time of review of this product, there was no added security measure on the client whatsoever.
We not only expected these security measures, but some exclusive security measures as well, and we got nothing but disappointment in return.
One of the general security measures these days is the internet kill switch, which stops the internet traffic if the VPN connection drops, and thus keeps the user away from using the internet without the safety of the VPN.
Thankfully, HideMyAss! comes with the Internet kill switch and the user can keep browsing the internet without the worry of checking if the VPN connection failed or not.
User Interface and Experience
The latest version of HideMyAss! has a very different user interface compared to the previous versions.
The new version is easy to understand, easy to use and functional enough for the highly curious beings out there.
At the onset, the user gets to choose from the three different modes available on the client. We have discussed all the three modes in detail in the previous sections.
In the location mode, the servers are presented in sorted lists and it the makes the process the finding the server relevant to the user a whole lot easier. The users don’t need to scroll through the entire list of servers to find one of the few streaming or the P2P dedicated servers.
Of these three modes, the ‘Freedom mode’ seems exclusive to HideMyAss!. This mode connects to the server in those countries which promote the freedom of speech. However, the basis of selection of these countries still seems pretty grey to us.
In the options menu, the first tab is ‘Preferences’. It is further divided into three sections- General, Network Security and Kill Switch.
In the ‘General’ section, the user gets the necessary options to customize the client such as the switch to start the app when the system starts up, and the switch to hide the app once it starts.
In the ‘Network Security’ option, there are a few options for customizing the IP sharing process, to have TCP as the preferred port if one wants and other such customizations options for the client.
The ‘Kill Switch’ tab is as obvious as it can get, and you choose the tab, just to select the one option.
In our opinion, all the three tabs could have been easily managed in one window, and it makes the client unnecessarily complicated to have such trivial classifications.
The next option is ‘Account’ which displays all the relevant information about your account and the subscription details.
The next options are pretty much self-explanatory.
The user interface of HideMyAss! is easy on the eyes and provides the one click connectivity to the VPN.
Some sections can be made even more concise. The classification in those sections would have been useful if the client had more protocols and security features. But as of now, the client heavily lacks on the features and options front, and therefore it can be made even more concise.
Platforms and Devices
The client is available on all the major platforms such as Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux and Routers.
They are no extensions for browsers, and not support for other platforms as well. For those who need the provider’s VPN service for other devices such as Xbox and SmartTV need to get HMA! compatible router.
The provider has a list of routers which are compatible with the client and the users need to get one of these routers to have the VPN cover on the rest of his/her devices.
The client allows five simultaneous connections on various devices, but this feature might be useless for a lot of people out there because the platform support is so much limited.
It comes as a surprise to us that such an old product has not made any provisions to include all sorts of new devices which are hitting the market these days.
HideMyAss! needs to provide much better platform support if they want to attract all the millennials out there with there fancy new devices.
Now that we have discussed every feature and analyzed the performance of the client across all the fields, it is time to talk about customer support.
It is one thing to attract the user with impressive features and offers, but a different ball game altogether to make that user stick with that product for long periods.
The client needs to keep up the performance as well as the customer needs, and the queries require proper handling and response. This is where the customer support comes into the picture.
Many of the VPN providers miss on this critical component and the customers eventually switch to a different product after pulling out their hairs for days trying to figure out things about the product.
HideMyAss! has a 24/7 customer support system in place. We used the live chat a few times while reviewing the product, and got a swift as well as relevant response each time.
Their live chat support executives seem competent enough to handle most of the queries. HMA! automatically mails the transcript of the live chat session as well. It makes it easier for the user to refer back to the discussion in case he/she missed anything.
Apart from a robust live chat mechanism, HideMyAss! has also got an interesting as well as informative support page on the website.
The user gets information about the product and a lot of other aspects of online security and VPNs in general. The writing style across all the sections makes the user go through the articles while enjoying them.
The articles cover a wide variety of topics, and that too in a detailed manner. The users can benefit a lot from all this information put on the website over so many years.
HideMyAss! has got one of the best customer support services in place, and they seem genuinely interested in trying to help the user.
HideMyAss! is among the oldest VPN services out there. It has got a lot of reputation attached to it because of this legacy.
Things stirred up a bit for HMA! when Avast bought it, and there was a decrease in the popularity of the product.
However, they have tried to set things straight with the launch of the new version and a few new features as well. The new version looks a lot different compared to the previous versions.
The client is excellent regarding speed, user friendliness, and network coverage. The jurisdiction and additional security features are somethings that pull the product down.
They have assured the users that they are currently working on these issues, but, at present, there are no added security features. And that is a fact!
In our opinion, HMA! can once again regain the crown of the VPN kingdom, if it addresses these issues. We do hope that the new version comes soon and is free from all the shortcomings of the current one.
As of now, it is still a good product, lying somewhere on the boundary of the top tier section, waiting for a boost of added features to cross that threshold of the top tier.