Hideman may not be a big-name VPN, but the company has still been in the business for five years and reports millions of installs for its clients.
The company offers more features than many competitors, with more than 20 locations, torrent support, direct .onion and .i2p access, and clients for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, as well as a Chrome extension.
The website suggests Hideman can be used to access Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Sky and many other media streaming services, wherever you are in the world.
You can try the service with a free plan, if you can live with the multiple restrictions: only 7 locations (no UK or US), speeds may be limited to 512kbps at peak times, only four sessions of up to one hour each are allowed per week, you can't select a new location in the middle of a session, and data is limited to 2GB a month. There’s also some logging (more on that later).
- Want to try Hideman? Check out the website here
The Mobile plan allows connecting up to four mobile devices simultaneously for $2.90 (£2.32) a month, dropping to $2.07 (£1.66) with the annual subscription – that's good value. Hideman's Ultimate plan covers up to four devices of any type – mobile, desktop, gadget, whatever – for $9 ($7.20) a month, dropping to an average $5.75 (£4.60) a month on the annual subscription.
Hideman's range of payment options is another highlight. Along with PayPal and cards, you can use Bitcoin, Yandex Money, OKPAY, Mobiamo, WebMoney and more.
While most VPN providers do their best to pretend they don't log anything at all, ever, the Hideman website warns that it does record some information for free users only (not paid). Apparently this includes the 'account used for connection', the 'destination IP address' (presumably the IP address you're allocated), the 'volume of information transferred' and 'the time of initial transfer of information' for the last 14 days of account use.
While this isn't ideal, the company says the information will only ever be released if it receives claims that an account has been used for hacking, using other people's payment information, distributing spam or child pornography, or 'threat to human life and health'. As we write, Hideman's Warrant Canary says it's never been served a warrant or been requested to log information, so this logging isn’t likely to be an issue.
The logging policy for paid users is much simpler, as the Hideman FAQ explains.
'Do you save access logs?'
We would really like more detail, but at least the firm doesn’t waste your time.
While browsing Hideman's terms of service we came across one other interesting clause. Customers have the right to "inform on detected errors in Company’s system operation and require for compensation for service downtime in case of no opportunity to use the services."
Compensation if the system doesn't work? We would guess this isn't going to be very much, ever, but it's still a refreshing approach, especially in a world where most providers essentially say ‘nothing is ever our fault’.
Hideman's free account has plenty of restrictions and limits, but there's one major reason you might want to use it, anyway: there's no registration required. You don't have to provide your name, or an email address, or set up an account – just download and install the client, and you're ready to go immediately.
We tried the Windows client, which proved simple and straightforward. A tiny console displayed our current IP, we could connect to our nearest location with a click, or manually choose from a list of seven: Bulgaria, Canada, Luxembourg, Moldova, Romania, Russia and Ukraine. That's enough to protect your privacy, but notably the free plan doesn't give access to the UK and US locations.
The client has more low-level VPN tweaks and settings than we expected. You can have your network shut down if the VPN fails (a kill switch), enable or disable a DNS filter and an anti-DPI (deep packet inspection) mode, connect via TCP or UDP, configure a proxy and even set up port forwarding.
Hideman's free account has an unusual restriction on session times. You're not just limited in terms of time – six free hours initially, then four free hours a week – but these sessions are allocated in one-hour blocks. That means when you start a session, your free allowance drops by one hour, whether you stay connected for one minute or the full 60.
If you can live with these issues, Hideman's performance is very acceptable. Our speed tests* showed the service delivered around 30Mbps for the fastest locations and around 20 to 25Mbps from the UK to North America.
What's more, despite the company saying it might restrict speeds to only 512Kbps on the free plan, our tests showed no obvious limiting at all. That doesn't mean it won't happen – presumably it depends on your chosen location and the server load – but you could find free performance is better than some commercial services.
Privacy, unfortunately, is a slightly different story. Our IP checks showed Hideman gave us addresses in the locations we selected, but ipleak.net showed a DNS leak on the Windows client, meaning the internet resources we were accessing could still be visible to our ISP.
Hideman's no-registration free plan will be interesting for occasional users, and the $2.07 (£1.66) a month mobile device plan is good value, but there are also lots of limits and hassles. Give the service a try, but test it carefully, and use a site like ipleak.net to check your client for DNS leaks.
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*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.