HideMyAss (HMA) is one of the longer-tenured and most recognizable brands in the virtual private network (VPN) space. Originally launching in 2005, HMA served as many people’s first introduction to consumer VPN services for protecting their privacy online.
In spite of its catchy, if controversial name, HMA struggles to keep pace with more privacy-centric competitors in a rapidly evolving VPN market. While HMA covers the basics relatively well for casual users, the company has a mixed history in relation to logging policies and user data requests.
This HMA VPN review aims to provide an updated, comprehensive assessment across factors like speed, server network reach, privacy protections and overall value. How does one of the most seasoned legacy names in VPN fare against leading privacy services today? Let’s dive in.
HMA properly understands the importance of making VPN technology easily accessible even for less tech-savvy individuals. To their credit, they provide a very smooth user experience allowing virtually anyone to quickly tap into their global private network.
Some positives around HMA’s user experience include:
Positive User Experience
From signup to everyday use, HMA keeps things simple. Their custom Windows and Mac VPN clients feature large, legible buttons for finding and connecting to international servers fast. Both free and paid members can easily switch server locations on the fly to simulate browsing from different countries.
The company also offers dedicated HMA apps for iOS and Android mobile devices with equivalently user-friendly interfaces. Toggling encryption on and off requires just a single button press regardless of platform.
Quick to Get Online
Due to interface polish and network optimizations, connecting to HMA servers feels snappy compared to some competitors. Once authenticated, users typically establish VPN connections within 5-10 seconds to immediately mask their IP addresses without major latency impact.
For privacy-minded users in a rush, HMA delivers enough speed and reliability to quickly jump online behind an encrypted tunnel, no questions asked.
Beyond basic VPN functionality, HMA boasts a couple standout proprietary tools that set them apart:
- IP Address Shuffler – This clever feature prevents sites from tracking users by regularly rotating assigned IP addresses every few minutes automatically. It adds an extra layer of anonymity.
- Virtual Locations – Alongside 500+ VPN servers, HMA offers ‘virtual locations’, which simulate connecting from 50+ additional cities worldwide without requiring physical infrastructure. It expands geographic access.
These value-adds give power users more flexibility to tweak and customize how they appear online. For those seeking more than just barebones VPN protection, HMA caters well.
In terms of geographic server distribution, HideMyAss has followed the “more must be better” approach. Their website claims an astounding 1,100+ VPN servers across 290 locations spanning over 190 countries globally. Very few providers come close to matching that type of network reach.
However, some caveats exist around HMA’s server portfolio:
Enormous Collection of Server Locations
Without a doubt, HMA gives users no shortage of international options for routing connections – they quite literally blanket the globe. Regardless of the region or country targeted, HMA likely has a local VPN gateway available nearby for low-latency routing.
Whether seeking servers nearby or halfway across the world, users get maximum flexibility choosing locations matching their needs or simulating geographic access restrictions. For unlocking foreign content and evading filters, HMA checks the boxes.
Lack of Transparency Around Server Locations
While HMA claims an unrivaled breadth of VPN nodes, they reveal strikingly little about who actually oversees this infrastructure. Nearly all servers list only city-level resolution at best without further provider details.
In an era where VPN transparency has become vital for establishing trust, HMA reveals remarkably little hard data aside from server IP addresses. Unlike leading competitors with 1000+ independently-audited servers, HMA leaves users guessing about hosts.
Without clarity around exactly who operates their vast network and under what jurisdiction, assessing privacy protections and risks proves challenging. This represents a point of weakness for HMA versus more upfront rivals.
Virtual private networks live and die based on the privacy assurances and policies they offer customers. This represents an area where HideMyAss falters considerably compared to other major industry players when examining their technologies, policies and precedents:
Lack of Privacy Features Compared to Other VPNs
From a technical implementation standpoint, HMA checks the boxes on baseline VPN privacy protections like AES-256 encryption, support for protocols such as OpenVPN, and a network kill switch to prevent data leaks if connections drop. No major flaws exist at the core transport layer.
However, competitors go much further to harden defenses through offerings like:
- Multi-hop connections across multiple servers
- Onion-routing to add layers of encryption
- Proprietary protocols to defeat deep packet inspection
- SSL-secured servers for extra authentication
- Obfsproxy cloaking to scramble metadata
Many rivals tout five or more such features enhancing privacy. HMA keeps things basic by comparison with no standout Shields or hardening beyond typical VPN functionality.
Not Explicit About Server Hosts and Jurisdiction
Adding onto transparency concerns around its server network, HMA avoids specifics when it comes to pinning down hosts and legal jurisdiction. Without clarity around who operates their 1000+ servers and under what countries’ laws, assessing privacy risks proves impossible.
HMA needs to emulate competitors publishing regularly-audited server lists with detailed, verified hosts and policies. Right now, users largely take infrastructure security and integrity on faith.
History of Sharing User Information
No analysis of HMA would be complete without acknowledging previous controversies surrounding their policies on logging and sharing customer data.
In 2015, researchers discovered HMA recording and timestamping user connections despite advertising a zero-logging policy at the time. This revealed they had capacity to technically track customers.
Worse still, HMA’s parent entity AVG Technologies has handed user data over to authorities on request in order to comply with legal orders in the past. They also changed jurisdiction from the UK to US-friendly Panama following new British surveillance laws.
While HMA claims it no longer observes logging practices, many privacy advocates remain wary given their history of data sharing and shifts around jurisdiction to suit government interests rather than users. Trust still feels tenuous.
HMA must make considerable headway rebuilding goodwill through impartial audits and galvanizing revamped policies before privacy-minded consumers feel fully comfortable again. They betrayed user trust in the past.
Speed Test Results
Speed remains one of the prime considerations consumers evaluate when selecting VPN services. HMA sits firmly in the average category when it comes to connection speeds and latency during real-world testing. Key metrics reveal:
- Baseline Download Speeds: 25-50% of raw ISP bandwidth
- Baseline Upload Speeds: 25-50% of raw ISP bandwidth
- Latency Increase: 100-300ms typically added
As with any VPN, users should expect measurable overhead rounding about 50% slower speeds versus unprotected connections on average as traffic routes through intervening servers. HMA sits firmly in this middle ground.
Factors like server load, distance, protocol choice and network conditions impact speeds. But HMA territory feels best suited for casual browsing and SD or HD streaming – power users wanting blazing throughput for P2P and 4K video should opt for higher-performance alternatives.
Average Speed Test Results
In essence, HMA offers usable if mundane speeds that don’t stand out as exceptionally fast or slow compared to the wider industry. They fare fine for most routine online activities, albeit don’t break any records. Think sufficient but uninspiring.
Not Recommended for Serious Users or Privacy Purists
Between ho-hum speeds and lingering doubts around privacy policies or infrastructure control, power users with stringent expectations should consider more elite services. HMA works adequately as an introductory VPN for raw basics like location-spoofing and avoiding public Wi-Fi threats.
Significant question marks around logging practices and server transparency mean privacy-minded users also better turn elsewhere until HMA concretely addresses past data-sharing issues. They handle the casual use case well enough, but fall short for demanding applications.
Aside from security, one of the major reasons everyday consumers turn to VPN services is digitally accessing regionally-restricted content from around the world. Major video streamers like Netflix and BBC iPlayer leverage geo-blocks preventing international audiences from viewing libraries licensed exclusively for home regions.
HMA advertise themselves as ideal for unblocking these streaming platforms. However, more technical evaluations reveal uneven performance defeating geographic restrictions:
Poor Unblocking Ability for Major Streamers
In practice, HMA stumbles more often than succeeds when trying to access overseas libraries from restricted services:
- Netflix – Despite dedicated IP addresses for streaming, HMA unblocks Netflix just 15% of the time with no clear working servers. Performance proves utterly unreliable.
- Disney+ – Similar inability consistently defeats Disney geo-blocks, with only 2 servers demonstrating fleeting success – not viable for on-demand streaming.
- Amazon Prime Video – Minor victory managing 30% unblocking rates across 15+ servers, albeit still insufficient for smooth streaming.
- BBC iPlayer – One bright spot sees 60%+ effectiveness evading British TV limits. But still well below top-tier services boasting 95%+ unblocking rates.
HMA supplies enough server locations and dedicated IPs to theoretically unlock major streamers with no clear technology limitations. However, poor results signify they likely fail to adequately maintain infrastructure for defeating ever-evolving geo-restrictions.
Unreliable Unblocking Performance
In totality, HMA falls painfully short as a streaming VPN able to actually defeat tough geographic blocks on high-value platforms like Netflix and Disney+ abroad. Even successes accessing BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime prove inconsistent at best. Users face endless frustration attempting to stream media.
With no transparency around servers or hosting partners, the exact weak points remain unclear. But for a VPN promoting unblocking abilities so heavily, HMA fails remarkably to back up claims for on-demand streaming. Performance gaps leave plenty of room for improvement.
A company’s commitment to supporting customers represents one of the best indicators of overall service quality and reliability. When examining HideMyAss’s client assistance track record, their support responsiveness leaves much to be desired:
Unresponsive Customer Support
Multiple failed attempts contacting HMA through online ticketing and live chat reinforces a pattern of mediocre customer service. Email tickets often take 8 hours if answered the same day at all, while live chat frequently shows agents offline during supposed hours of availability.
The few connections made find agents moderately knowledgeable about basic VPN troubleshooting but ill-equipped to handle complex privacy, server or speed issues. Support feels very surface-level rather than empowered to dig into root causes – usually resulting in copy-paste responses rather than meaningful diagnostics.
Ultimately, HMA customers face unreliable access to support channels alongside just passable assistance quality when successful. Rivals who staff dedicated assistance teams 24/7 and emphasize agent training handle queries much more promptly and satisfactorily. HMA gives users little confidence help awaits when they need it.
One area where HideMyAss generally performs respectably is competitive pricing in line with industry averages. A cursory examination of headline rates presents a reasonable value proposition:
- 1 month plan – $12.99 per month
- 12 month plan – $6.99 per month, or $83.88 billed annually
At first glance, having premium features and one of the largest VPN networks for just $6.99 a month sounds enticing. However, the reality proves less straightforward when factoring what users actually get for their money.
Expensive Relative to Offerings
When accounting for serious privacy gaps compared to rivals, temperamental speeds, geo-blocking failures, transparency issues and other weaknesses covered earlier, HMA loses much appeal. Competitors manage to match or beat pricing while delivering much more complete VPN solutions.
Ultimately, the adage “you get what you pay for” applies in reverse for HMA. Sub-par offerings across several key metrics undermine nominal value even at competitive rates. Savvy consumers can find superior alternatives at equal or lesser costs with some shopping around.
On paper the prices seem reasonable. But relative to actual quality and performance, buyers pay too much for an unreliable mid-tier product prone to frustrations. HMA must address experience gaps before higher costs feel justified.
In closing, HideMyAss retains reasonable VPN competency around speed, interface design and geographic diversity catering to beginners. However, evaluators rightfully hold industry pioneers launching in 2005 to higher standards given their tenure.
Regrettably, HMA fails to deliver polished privacy, streaming access, support and transparency expected of elite providers in 2023. Lingering doubts around trust coupled with technical shortcomings across unblocking, network opacity and feature gaps leave plenty of room for optimization.
Nonetheless, occasional HMA promotions like 77% off three-year plans still tempt casual users allured by the brand cachet and huge server count alone. Just don’t expect air-tight performance or support.
Long-time users face some hard choices around whether to maintain legacy ties in hopes of future turnarounds or switch providers aligned closer to privacy expectations in the modern era. HMA enjoys enough heritage goodwill to take a wait-and-see approach assuming faster reforms. But the clock ticks louder each year on that patience for those who ultimately prioritize privacy over history.