Interface And Setup
While HMA! offers instructions on its software download page for running manual VPN setups, you’ll likely want to grab one or more of its various clients, available in Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android versions. The Windows version we evaluated proved remarkably intuitive and easy to navigate, plus HMA! throws in some eye candy with a handy global map of available VPN servers. And what a list -- 620 VPN servers across 75 countries as of this writing, comprising over 77,000 available IP addresses. A little over half of these are located in the U.S.
During our performance testing, we at first relied on the application's Speed Guide tab. This uses your native IP location to list the geographically closest HMA! servers to you. We strongly recommend using this tool. When we first began using HMA!, we thought the choice of best-performing server would be obvious: the closest one, which, in our case, was Portland (LOC1). The software’s Express Test revealed — and further testing proved — that this was far from the best option. Portland LOC1 traffic was barely able to drag itself the 19km back to our location. Seattle proved several times faster, and Vancouver, British Columbia, was faster yet. The Speed Guide polls all HMA! VPN servers, so don’t be shy about testing any of them regardless of proximity.
Also, if you happen to pick on a server loaded at over 30 percent more than other servers in that city, you’ll receive a load balancing warning asking if you’d like to connect to the least loaded server instead. Nice.
Other pleasant perks in the HMA! Pro VPN app include the ability to randomly change IP address according to a timed interval you choose as well as “Secure IP Bind,” which forces applications to only work when under the protection of HMA!’s encryption. This way, if there’s an unexpected disconnect from a VPN server, applications won’t be trying to reconnect while using an unencrypted feed. You also have the ability to bind only individual applications, such as a browser or torrent client.
In an effort to keep things simple, HMA!’s drop-downs only offer two security protocols: OpenVPN and PPTP. If you’re not picky, keeping the other cipher concerns hidden and handled should be no problem.