Setting out to 'reinvent HTTP' and allow everyone to override censorship, Hola VPN is both a free and premium VPN service, claiming over 239 million users globally.
Offering compatibility across a variety of devices, including a router VPN and TV apps for LG, Fire TV, Apple TV and other Smart TVs, how does its middling, paid-for plan shape up against the big players in the game? We put it through its paces in our Hola VPN Premium review below.
Hola VPN Premium 1-minute review
Perhaps best known for its browser extensions, Hola VPN is certainly of interest if you're looking for a VPN that can bypass geo-restrictions and access the most popular streaming platforms like Netflix and Disney+. It also offers a number of clients - some that other VPN simply don't provide, like a Fire Stick VPN - allowing you to equip multiple devices with its 10 simultaneous connections.
Standing out above the rest, Hola calls itself 'the first community-powered VPN'. This essentially means it will route your traffic through other users of Hola (nodes) as opposed to the more standard private server network system other VPNs adopt. The perks of this means Hola VPN is less likely to be detected - great news for those looking to stream who don't want to be caught out by the likes of Netflix's anti-VPN infrastructure. Better still, for paying customers, your bandwidth won't be used - only customers of the free tool can become peers.
Really, though, that's where Hola's positives end. While being an excellent streaming VPN is desirable, Hola's Premium plan is pretty expensive ($14.99 a month or $7.69 a month for its annual plan), unless you're prepared to commit to its three year plan from the get-go, working out at $2.99 a month. What's more, its streaming capabilities are pretty much all you're getting for your money. In short, good value for money it does not make.
It's very slim-pickings on its feature front. There's no P2P support, port forwarding, or the like. You won't even find interesting and useful interface quirks like a Favorites system to curate a list of the servers you want to connect to time and time again. In fact, its interface, while welcoming in its simple, straight-forward design, is severely lacking, and the few configurable settings you'll find on its Windows app are absent elsewhere on its iOS app.
Of course, there's also the current glaring issue that for Android users and those after its well-known Chrome browser extension, you're fresh out of luck. Both have been pulled from their respective stores with vague explanations of them being filled with malware - something which Hola VPN denies. Not exactly something you want to hear about a VPN you're looking to try...
In terms of performance, it's also slower than average and there are some glaring logging concerns, too. As we stated earlier, while it's great for streaming, there's an argument that you could get a VPN just as capable in that regard with far more going for it in other areas, all at a far more attractive price point.
As of September 2021, users have been unable to get the Hola extension in the Chrome Store following its removal by Google. This was due to Google warning the extension contained 'malware'.
In response, Hola stated, "the Hola extension does NOT contain malware, does not display ads, and above all, respects user privacy."
This follows the Hola Android VPN app no longer being available to download in the Google Play Store, either. With little information provided on either side, it's difficult to determine whether or not there is a significant privacy concern or not.
Rest assured, we will update this review if and when the situation changes.
Hola VPN Premium on paper
Number of servers: up to 1,500+ depending on plan
Number of countries: 41
Platforms supported: Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, selected Smart TVs, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Internet Explorer, Opera, router
Simultaneous connections: 10
Split tunneling: No
Kill switch: Yes
Supported protocols: IKEv2/IPsec, PPTP/L2TP
Country of registration: Israel
Support: Support site, online form
Hola VPN Premium price: how much is it, and is there a Hola VPN Premium free trial?
The Hola VPN Premium plan, advertised as an 'unlimited VPN', comes in at three different price points. Its monthly rate is a heady $14.99, with its annual rate of $7.69 still steeply priced when you consider some of the top VPN work out as less on their yearly plans. It becomes affordable only when committing to three years, working out at $2.99 a month.
It's also worth noting there is a step up from the Hola Premium. Stepping up from 10 simultaneous connections to 20, with a boost to its apparently 'Ultra fast' speeds, Hola Ultra costs an extortionate $29.99 a month, $19.99 a month on its 1-year plan, and $7.99 a month for 3.
While our review follows the results of putting Hola's Premium VPN plan through its paces, we also can't talk about Hola without mentioning its free VPN offering.
You can get Hola's 'Basic' plan as a browser extension, mobile app, desktop client, or on selected smart TVs, though you're limited to 30 minutes of unlimited usage every hour. If you're looking to stream anything more than a 20-minute sitcom episode, then, you'll probably find it pretty tedious to use.
How private is Hola VPN Premium?
Hola sets itself apart from most VPN providers in that is doesn't route your traffic through its own servers, but instead through its users. This may sound like a privacy dream as you'd think this would mean it wouldn't have the opportunity to log and retain any of your details. However, Hola VPN does outright state it monitors the consumer network.
Highlighted in Hola's FAQ, the provider is very transparent in that it '[does] keep logs and will report any malicious use to the authorities. These measures are probably what make Hola the least attractive VPN for people with malicious or illegal intent to use.'
In short, it sounds like a bit of a privacy nightmare, with little explanation reserved for how it encrypts and protects your traffic while using its tool. So if online anonymity is of the utmost importance for you, Hola is a no-go.
Protocol uncertainties aside, it did pass our final privacy tests with no sign of WebRTC, DNS, or other data leaks.
How fast is Hola VPN Premium?
Running our Hola speed tests under the same variables as the other services we test, we measured Hola VPN Premium through a number of benchmarking tools from two locations. Firstly, from a US residential location, and secondly at a UK data center, both with a 1Gbsps connection. We run these tests multiple times and across different times of day to get a real idea of how each provider performs.
Hola hasn't been able to keep up with the strides many providers have taken, particularly in their WireGuard results. While Hola's average speeds sit between 200-260Mbps at their peak, this is the near-equivalent of CyberGhost and its OpenVPN connections at 170-210Mbps - but CyberGhost has WireGuard on its side. Switch up protocols and CyberGhost is looking at a median of 760-860Mbps - almost 4 times as fast as Hola.
It's more bad news for Hola VPN Premium when it came to our DNS query time testing, where Hola didn't prove to be particularly responsive.
How good is Hola VPN Premium for streaming and torrenting?
For many, Hola's browser extension may have been your first foray into bypassing geo-restrictions and using a Netflix VPN. However, while it promotes its unblocking prowess as one of its key attributes, we were disappointed to find its interface didn't reflect that selling point in any unique features.
There were no specialist server lists or city-level locations to choose from, but Hola did exceed expectations when it came round to actually accessing popular streaming platforms. We were able to stream US Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and BBC iPlayer.
We did, however, fall victim to CAPTCHAs when using Google and other websites. When checking its IPQualityScore, this threw up a 100 'fraud' rating, an indication the service has been abused by hackers. While not strictly the service's fault, it certainly doesn't bode well if Hola's IP addresses have garnered a bad reputation.
How good are the Hola VPN Premium desktop apps?
The Hola VPN Premium Windows app is pretty simplistic, which could very well be a blessing or a curse depending on what you want from your VPN. Open it up and you'll be presented with a location picker in the form of a list, with the US and UK at the top and the other 40 countries listed alphabetically.
You're unable to pick on a city-level, making switching between servers difficult when one doesn't work. There's also no Favorites List system to speak of, and the app doesn't send notifications when you connect or disconnect from a server. Alternatively, though, the system tray icon changes to display the flag of the server you're connected to, which does feel like quite a nice touch.
Connecting to a server did prove pretty slow, taking 10-15 seconds for the closest servers. Considering some of the best fast VPN services take a matter of seconds, this did feel like a bit of a slog.
Diving into Hola VPN Premium's settings, you've got the option of Auto Connect, an App Kill Switch, and a Security panel, which allows you to choose encryption methods. In fact, this is quite extensive, able to choose from AES-128/192/256 encryption, SHA-1/256-384 integrity checking, and more.
How good are the Hola VPN Premium mobile apps?
Of course, we weren't able to check out the Android Hola VPN app due to it being pulled from the Google Play Store at the time of testing. However, we did have a nosey around its iOS VPN client.
Its interface isn't dissimilar from its Windows counterpart, though, as expected, it is a far more stripped-back version - not altogether uncommon when it comes to smartphone VPN clients.
Launch the app and you'll find its location list and an On/Off button. And that's about it. Comparing this to some of the competition where you'll find extra details and features like a Favorites system and server load and ping times, this does feel pretty lacking. While these aren't present in the Windows app either, you certainly miss the ability to adjust protocols, as well as the benefit of its Kill Switch and Auto Connect features.
It's fair to say Hola's target market may be quite happy with the fairly simple interface that allows them to connect and go without much thought for other configuration. However, if you're used to more feature-packed mobile VPN - or, indeed, Windows VPN - Hola likely won't cut it.
Hola VPN Premium: Final verdict
For those looking for a decent VPN to stream with that's really, really straightforward to use, Hola VPN Premium might just fit the bill. If you do want a VPN that also ticks those privacy and speed boxes, though, you're going to need to look elsewhere.
Considering Hola Premium isn't all that affordable unless you're prepared to commit for a whole three years, there are certainly way more powerful VPN services like Surfshark or Private Internet Access out there that also gave you way more bang for your buck.