Everyone seems to be putting a VPN service out these days, but some of the old names are still going strong despite all the extra competition. Today I’m reviewing a name you might have heard before. Hide My Ass (HMA) is familiar to a lot of people not just thanks to its hilarious name, but also a good reputation built up over years.
The company that owns HMA has been swept up in all the mergers and buyouts that have been going on in the internet security world. Today it is ultimately owned by the same company that created Avast!, the venerable free antivirus package. So funny name aside, the expertise behind the product is not to be sniffed at.
Today we’re going to be testing the HMA VPN in all its glory. We’ll be looking at how well it performs, how easy it is to use and how well it protects your privacy and network. Our testing methodology is designed to mimic what an actual user would experience during typical use.
In case you don’t have the time right now to read through the entire review, we’ve summarized the most important information in a handy table below. I’ll also sum up the main things I did and did not like about HMA.
|Features||Basic VPN features: Encryption, location spoofing, and IP hiding|
|Servers||More than 900+ servers in 280+ locations covering 190+ countries|
|Logging Policy||User-unfriendly, keep records for a month.|
|Security||AES-256 Encryption, DNS leak protection|
|Privacy||Encryption and IP obscurity.|
|Speed||9.12 Mbps (fastest server) | 5.58 Mbps (US server) | 9.71 Mbps (baseline)|
|Price||$11.99 (monthly) | $7.99 per month (6 months) | $6.99 per month (12 months)|
|Device Support||Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android|
|Number of simultaneous connections||5|
VPNs are a great way to get around regional blocks that have been put in place so that only local users can consume certain media.
Many people specifically use a VPN to unblock international content for streaming purposes. Which is why we also test three popular streaming sources to see if they work. Here are the results for Hide My Ass.
|Netflix||NO – VPN Detected and blocked|
|Hulu||NO – VPN Detected and blocked|
The following table lists the main pros and cons of HideMyAss VPN.
HideMyAss VPN Review
The name is one nobody ever forgets, but what we really care about isn’t how clever Hide My Ass is when it comes to marketing. What matters is how good it is for being a VPN. We tested HideMyAss on our Windows machine and the following sections present the details of our tests and the test results.
Support for OpenVPN really widens the possibilities, but more native apps would have been nice.Our Score: 7/10
A VPN isn’t much use if it won’t run on the device that you need it to. So it’s a good thing that HMA has quite a spread of supported devices and operating systems.
Native support is provided for iOS, Android, MacOS, and Windows. If you have another device that needs to be protected by a VPN then you can make use of OpenVPN. HMA has OpenVPN configuration tutorials as part of its support knowledge base on the website, but as soon as you log into your account there’s already a button to help you install the VPN on routers right there.
The ability to run HMA on a router with a built-in OpenVPN client help make up a bit for the strict limit on simultaneous connections. Still, for less money, other OpenVPN-supporting VPNs will let you connect to more devices.
Here is a quick list of the supported OS/devices:
- OS: Linux, Windows, Mac, Android, iOS
- Browsers: so support
- Network devices/Others: Routers
Installation & Setup
Installation of HMA is pretty straightforward.Our Score: 9/10.
After signing up and logging in, we do the usual dance of finding the right client and clicking the download button.
Once we got the right package downloaded it implies a question of running it and clicking “next” a few times. We’ve all done that a million times before. Before you know its all done:
That’s all there is to it, from here we can go on ahead and run the VPN client. I’ll talk more about that experience a little later, but first, let’s look at the features HMA has on offer.
HMA is very run-of-the-mill when it comes to product features. It sticks to the bare bones of what a VPN should provide. Our Score: 5/10
There’s no ad-blocking or anti-malware feature here. You can’t choose between different VPN protocols, but at least it supports OpenVPN.
You also don’t get specialized servers for P2P or streaming. It’s all very homogeneous.
Ease of Use
While HMA’s client software isn’t hard to use, certain actions (such as finding a server by distance) is poorly implemented. Our Score: 7/10
The HMA client is a pretty straightforward piece of software. When you first start it you have the standard request to log in and access your account.
We did exactly that using our credentials and this is the client interface that greets you.
This is an amazingly clean interface and get’s right to the point. There are three tabs to choose from here. The first one is a one-click solution to finding the fastest server. Since HMA has such a wide spread of global servers the chances are the fastest server will be in your home country. So if you want to appear outside of the fatherland you need to head to the second tab.
As I mention elsewhere in this review, the server selection menu us clunky and makes it hard to find a server with good speeds in places like the USA. In this case simpler was not better. Still, it does let you search for a location quickly.
The third tab is interesting. It quickly gets you connected to a server in a country with good free speech laws. In other words, ones that will not try and track you for what you say online.
In terms of the settings that are available to you as a user, there’s a fair bit of configuration that’s possible. Just click the little “hamburger” and then Preferences.
You’ll be presented with the following screen:
Although it’s pretty basic, the options to automatically start the VPN under certain conditions is helpful when you don’t want to accidentally expose yourself.
When it comes to connection settings, in particular, there’s more fiddling to be done.
Finally, we have another form of protection that comes in the shape of a kill switch.
A kill switch is a VPN function which blocks all network traffic if the VPN connection is interrupted for any reason. What’s really neat about HMA’s kill switch is that it can be selective. Usually, we just get a blanket kill, but here you can specify which apps should not communicate if there is no VPN server on the other end of a secure tunnel.
Overall HMA was really easy to use, but that server selection interface does hurt its chances quite a bit.
Regarding the website, the public site is moderately cluttered, making navigation a bit of a pain.
The public face of the HMA website is quite nice, if you like a lot of yellow, that is. I really like how extensively they’ve implemented custom HMA cartoons to illustrate the various aspects of their service.
To be honest, however, I did find the site rather cluttered. Finding information about HMA was a bit of a chore and I can imagine new customers getting a little irritated with them before even signing up.
Once you actually log in, however, the clutter clears right up. The user dashboard is pretty minimalistic and I had no trouble finding the client and downloading it.
Sporting one of the most monstrous and widespread server networks we’ve ever seen, there’s little doubt that HMA deserves a perfect score. Our Score: 10/10
HMA has one of the most extensive server networks we’ve ever seen. The company boasts in excess of 900+ servers in more than 190+ countries. I mean, they even have one in Iceland.
Users who have a keen need to control where they unblock content or appear to physically be will, therefore, love the variety and spread of all these VPN servers.
Even more astounding is how quickly their network is growing. It seems that the number of servers is growing almost by the day.
HMA says they’re fast and they aren’t lying. Even long-distance server connections were perfectly usable.Our Score: 8/10
On paper, HMA claims to have one of the fastest VPN networks in the world. We often hear this same claim from many of the large VPN providers, but the truth is that the speed of a VPN is very dependent on where you are in the world, where the server is and the will of the gods that day.
Our test connection if a completely unthrottled 10 Mbps ADSL line. We used Ookla’s speed test to get the baseline, closest server speed and then USA server speeds. The idea behind this is that people who want to unblock content usually want to do so with a US server, and so it’s important how much that impact performance. US servers tend to be busy after all, for obvious reasons.
Our baseline speed on the ADSL line is very close to its rated 10 Mbps speed, which means we can say with quite a bit of confidence that any drop in that performance is thanks to the VPN itself.
First I let the client select the fastest server automatically. This is a common situation for people who just want to protect their privacy and don’t need to relocate to another country virtually. This is the result:
As you can see, there’s barely any difference at all. Speeds are just about the same and best of all, the ping is completely unchanged. That’s a pretty fantastic result.
Next up is switching to a US server. Why a US server in particular? Well, most people want to access content from US territories. This is where I hit a major irritation with HMA. While many other VPN clients let you arrange server by their ping or how close they are, HMA doesn’t. So, in the end, I had to choose a server in the USA that I thought would be closest. There are so many of them it’s simply not practical to try them all. Just know that depending on where in the world you find yourself, you might get better results by experimenting with different US servers.
That’s a massive increase in ping, but that’s not a big deal if you’re looking to stream content, but real-time stuff like gaming or video conferencing is simply out of the question.
The speed penalty is pretty significant here, but still leaves more than enough bandwidth for a single HD stream.
Let’s summarize the speed test results:
Ping: 23 ms
Download: 9.71 Mbps
Upload: 0.76 Mbps
Ping: 23 ms
Download: 9.12 Mbps
Upload: 0.76 Mbps
Ping: 552 ms
Download: 5.58 Mbps
Upload: 0.56 Mbps
Security & Privacy
Being based in privacy-unfriendly England and sporting a history of snitching and unwelcome logging policies, we can’t help but give HMA a low score. Our Score: 1/10.
Before we can talk about the security and privacy features that HMA advertises, we have to address the elephant in the room. HMA handed over logs to the authorities in the massive 2011 hack of Sony by hacker group Lulsec.
In the eyes of many, regardless of whether Lulsec broke the law, this is a big breach of client confidentiality. Now, to be fair, the HMA of today is owned by an entirely different company, but everyone should know how HMA besmirched themselves.
HMA uses AES-256 encryption, which is considered military-grade. Needless to say, it is one of the best encryption standards available today.
- data volume
- Your IP
- VPN server session IP
HMA explicitly states that they collect this information to, among other things, prevent illicit activity.
Now, to be clear, Husham.com does not condone breaking the law via a VPN, but the logging policy of HMA is not at all good for users. On top of this, the records are kept for long periods of time or even longer in “exceptional” circumstances.
In terms of technical privacy, the gold standard is a DNS leak test. This test will show us if HMA really does obscure your location and IP address. Anyone can perform one, just head over to dnsleaktest.com with the VPN active and click the right button.
HMA passes this with flying colors. All we can see is the server address of its mother company Avast. So on a technical level, it’s A-OK.
HMA has gone above and beyond in their quest to make sure you know what’s wrong and how to fix it. An extensive knowledge base, basic guide, and live chat support round out a fantastic customer service offering, which nets them an amazing score. Our Score: 9/10.
HMA has a strong variety of customer support resources. The first and most important support feature has to be live chat support. Personally, I can’t really abide a VPN service that only provides basic email support. VPNs are a product that needs to work when you need it to. Many people use VPNs for mission-critical purposes, so it’s incredibly important that help comes as quickly as possible when you are stuck.
Of course, HMA would like it if you first tried to sort out your problems on your own. After all, it’s not a good thing if live chat or even email help is tied up with questions that could have been handled by a simple FAQ.
HMA has a lovely “getting started” section that walks you through all the basic of VPNs and the various specific applications as well. It even includes slightly more advanced topics such as how to improve speeds in certain cases.
For more advanced problems or more advanced use cases, there’s an extensive knowledge base which contains a wealth of tutorial material. I’ve seen knowledge bases on VPN sites before, but never this comprehensive or well laid out.
I also have to mention one very cool feature when it comes to user support. Look at this screen, one which you see right after you log in.
Right on this page, you get links to both router-level setup and OpenVPN setup. That’s a nice touch and I appreciate how forward-thinking HMA is here.
HMA is an expensive product, but that’s tempered by several strong features. Nonetheless, if you want to be a month-to-month customer you’re getting pretty terrible value for money. Our Score: 5/10
At a solid $11.99 HMA is one of the most expensive VPN services on the market. Which is a bit of a disappointment given that it does not particularly feature rich and only allows two concurrent connections.
I suppose it’s so expensive because of the massive server network and the seemingly relentless expansion of that network. If you choose to go for a longer-term purchase than simply month-to-month then the per-month cost is much less. Taking the 12-months upfront option brings the cost down to $6.99.
The good news is that HMA has both a free trial version and a 30-day money back guarantee. So if you don’t feel like committing that much cash before you’re sure you like them, there are some options available.
Here’s a summary of the pricing plans available:
Who Should Use This VPN?
If you’re looking for a VPN service that’s fast, easy to use and has a peerless global network then you should definitely consider Hide My Ass.
Who Should Not Use This VPN?
If you really care about privacy and the idea that HMA logs your username and keeps it for three months doesn’t make you comfortable, then you shouldn’t use these guys.
It’s also worth noting that HMA is based in England (despite being owned by a Czech company) and is therefore subject to their rather rough surveillance laws.
On top of this, HMA failed to unblock either Netflix or Hulu, so I would not recommend it to people who want to access those services.
PROS: There are more than a few positive aspects of HideMyAss:
- Massive server coverage
- A user-friendly experience
- Speed tests were pretty good
- Good device support
CONS: When it comes to the negative aspects of HideMyAss there are a few points to note:
- It’s priced to compete with the most premium services
- You get five simultaneous connections only
Final Verdict: 6.8 out of 10!
If you have liked HMA, head over to the official HMA website and purchase a subscription plan today.
On a technical level, HMA is a great product. The performance of its network is great. It has servers just about anywhere anyone could possibly want them. The app is attractive and easy to use and they have OpenVPN support.
On the downside, you can only get two device connections for a subscription fee that is quite steep compared to some other VPN services that do the same job. There’s also the very worrying logging policy and record retention. So if you do use HMA you either have to have no concerns about the authorities ever seeing your logs or have high confidence HMA will never be hacked. For me personally, their logging policy is a bit of a deal-breaker, but I’m sure there are many people out there who would be perfectly comfortable with it.
With this, we conclude our review of HMA. We sincerely hope our review has helped you find the information you were looking out for. Please feel free to leave us your comments and share this article in your social circles.
Written by David Minister