Hide.me's free plan offers a reasonable 2GB data transfer, although the extremely limited server choice (Canada, Netherlands, Singapore), "best effort" bandwidth and one device limit might put you off. Registration requires an email address, too.
- Want to try Hide.me? Check out the website here
The $10 (£7.69, AU$13.46) per month ($65 per year – that's £50, AU$87.50 – when paid annually) Plus plan offers 29 locations and unlimited bandwidth, but again there are some unexpected limits in a 75GB data cap and (still) a one-simultaneous-connection-only limit.
The $20 (£15.20, AU$26.60) per month ($140 per year – that's £106, AU$186 – when paid annually) Premium plan finally drops these restrictions, giving you 29 locations, unlimited bandwidth and data, up to five simultaneous connections, and support for port forwarding and a wide range of protocols: PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, IPSEC (IKEv1 and IKEv2), OpenVPN, SoftEther.
There are clients for all the main operating systems (Windows, Android, iOS, Mac), setup instructions for anything else, and 24/7 live chat if you need more support.
Payment options are another plus, including Bitcoin, PayPal and many other providers, along with credit cards. There's also a 14-day refund, though with an important restriction – it won't apply if you've used more than 500MB of data.
Hide.me has a strict "no logging, ever" policy, the company claims, saying "our network simply cannot log your information, it is just built that way".
Some details are held to manage your account, but these are relatively minimal: an email address, the amount of monthly data traffic, and a non-persistent log which holds randomly generated user names and internal IP addresses (which is securely erased every few hours). Your name, payment details, email and physical address stay private.
There's no sharing of data with third parties. The company does use Google Analytics on its website, but even there points out that "to enhance your anonymity, Hide.me have opted to only allow Google to collect only a portion of the IP address".
Hide.me does say that it will comply with court orders received by recognised legal authorities with jurisdiction over them. But as this is a Malaysian company, that may not apply very often, and even when it does the logs won't show very much.
Hide.me's PC client is compact and well-designed. You're able to connect to the best server with a click, the list of alternative servers is immediately on view, and status information about your current IP address and location is always visible.
The Settings dialog is also very well-judged. The opening tab displays the main application and connection settings (Launch on startup, remember selected location, reconnect automatically, prevent DNS leaks). Experts get far more low-level control than with most of the competition (DNS servers, custom MTU, UDP/TCP and port choices for OpenVPN), but there's still an effort to help others. The client doesn't just give you a choice of IKEv2, OpenVPN, SSTP and PPTP protocols, for instance – it has a few words describing the value of each one.
There are also extra touches you won't always see elsewhere. A Limit Connectivity feature optionally disables local network connectivity while the VPN is active, and the kill switch limits connectivity entirely if the VPN drops.
In our performance tests* Hide.me was impressive, with the service actually accelerating our regular download speeds by 1%. Latency was increased by 86%, though, and uploads were down by 61% compared to our normal speeds, but overall the service still clearly stood out from the crowd as a nifty performer.
Hide.me passed our privacy tests, too, properly cloaking our online activities at all times.
Hide.me is a solid, reliable and likeable service, especially if you can live with the Plus plan's 75GB data cap. If you need unlimited data then it becomes a little expensive, and you might want to look elsewhere.
- Here are the best free VPN services and links to download them
*Our testing included evaluating general performance (browsing, streaming video). We also used speedtest.net to measure latency, upload and download speeds, and then tested immediately again with the VPN turned off, to check for any difference (over several rounds of testing). We then compared these results to other VPN services we've reviewed. Of course, do note that VPN performance is difficult to measure as there are so many variables.