HMA Pro VPN review: An easy-to-use tool for securing your online privacy

This is a powerful VPN, but expert users might the older version, prefer HMA 2, which has a more conventional desktop software look and feel.

HMA Pro is a premium virtual private network (VPN) service operated by Privax Limited, an AVG subsidiary. Starting with version 3, HMA Pro (HMA is short for Hide My Ass) gained a much simplified user interface that makes it easy to get connected and online. This was a long overdue improvement that competing services such as ExpressVPN, SaferVPN, TunnelBear, and many others already offer.

If you’ve never used a VPN before the basic idea is that you route all your PC’s Internet traffic through a third-party server. This lets you spoof your real location with a virtual one, as well as secure your web browsing habits from prying eyes such as a nosy Internet service provider (ISP) or a hacker looking for victims on public Wi-Fi.

Privacy

No review of a VPN would be complete without a quick look at the service’s policies for how it handles your browsing information. When you use the desktop VPN program, Privax says it will collect your IP address, as well as when you connect and disconnect with the VPN. The company also logs the amount of data transmitted and records the IP address of the VPN server that you used.

You might also want to read “How and why you should use a VPN.”

Privax says it does not collect any details of the websites you visit, nor does it monitor your activity on those sites. All data is stored “between two and three months.” The exception being if the company is required for legal reasons to keep the data longer or “exceptional circumstances” arise, such as the company’s internal investigations for customer fraud and abuse.

For more information on logging check out the developer’s logging policy.

Software and service

HMA 3 menu Privax

I didn’t run any performance tests on HMA, as VPN speeds can vary widely based on the server location you choose, your home internet speed, and hardware performance. What I can say is that in my experience using HMA Pro on a Windows 10 PC, I often forgot that I was connected to a VPN. I had no trouble loading websites, and I was able to stream Netflix flawlessly with dozens of active browser tabs open at the same time.

When you first boot up HMA Pro for Windows, the program is a single column app with three tabs: Instant Mode, Location Mode, and Freedom Mode. The default view is Location Mode, which allows you to connect via a specific country or even city.

HMA’s country selection is vast and includes nearly 200 nation states from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. To choose a location, click the Change location button under Location Mode. The app then switches to HMA’s server screen with columns for specifying location by country or city. There’s also a Favorites section that you can personalize by clicking the heart icon next to any of the cities or countries in HMA’s server lists.

At the top of the server screen there’s also a search area to make it easier to find the specific location you want. Pro Tip: HMA Pro lists American locations as USA. Searching for “United States” will not bring up options for servers that are stateside.

Once you find the location you want, click it and the name of the location changes color. Now navigate back to the Location Mode tab by clicking on the back arrow at the top of the screen.

To connect, click the Disconnected slider. HMA will then try to connect to your desired location by searching for a server with the highest possible speed. Once you’re connected, a toast notification will pop-out of the lower right corner telling you the connection was successful.

HMA 3 location mode Privax

Location Mode is by far the most complicated of the three tabs. The other two do not allow you to choose your location; they connect automatically instead. Instant Mode, as its name suggests, connects automatically to the closest possible server. Freedom Mode, meanwhile, is an advantage for anyone traveling to a country where government firewalls might prevent you from accessing the internet. This feature connects your PC to the closest “free-speech country.”

That’s about all there is to HMA Pro. If you ever need to manage your account or get access to the service’s help pages, click on the “hamburger” menu icon in the upper left corner. This reveals what looks like a right-click context menu with options to manage your account, log out, get help, and quit the program.

Impressions

HMA Pro’s simplicity is a strength that will appeal to everyday users, but it might disappoint power users looking for a more feature-filled desktop app.

If I had one quibble with HMA Pro, it would be that it is now perhaps a little too simple when in Location Mode. I find it easier when VPN server lists and the “connect” button are on the same screen. Many competing VPNs do this by using a dual-pane app or a single-pane app with a drop-down list of servers.

Granted, HMA’s server list might be too expansive (and detailed) to fit into a single drop-down menu. Nevertheless, I’m not convinced that a smartphone-like single-pane app is the best choice for PCs. HMA might be thinking that its best for its PC and mobile apps to look and function similarly for greater ease of use, but I think there’s room for some refinement here.

HMA Pro 2 Privax

If you don't like HMA Pro's new look, Privax still offers the older version 2.8.24.0 for Windows 7 and up.

That said, HMA Pro 3 is very easy to use and most users will be just fine with the desktop program. If you really don’t like the new look, the company still offers the previous version of its desktop program (2.8.24.0 for Windows 7 and up) for those who want it.

There are versions of HMA Pro Windows (reviewed here), Mac, Android, and iOS. The service costs $11.52 for a single month, with discounted rates if you pay for blocks of months in advance: $6.55 per month if you pay for a year at a time ($78.66), or $8.33 per month if you pay for six months ($49.99)

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Ian Paul

TechHive (US)
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