PureVPN is another well known VPN service that often finds itself on many best lists due to decent long-term pricing packages and plenty of useful features. How does it perform in the real world, though? Does it stack up well against the competition? Let’s find out!
Creating an account
To get started with PureVPN, you will need to create an account by providing your name and email address. The email address isn’t required to log in to the PureVPN apps, and you don’t have to set a password.
Unlike other VPN services, what PureVPN does is send you an email with a username and password that you then use to sign in. This can be a little confusing if you wanted to use your email address or setting up your own username and password to sign in to a service. I also couldn’t find an option to change to username or password, so you’ll have to make sure the information is easily available to you.
Payment and pricing
PureVPN pricing plans start at $10.95 per month with a monthly billing cycle, which is certainly at the higher end of the price spectrum for paid VPN services. Long term plans are heavily discounted, though, so that is definitely the way to go.
The annual plan is priced at $59 billed yearly ($4.91 per month), while the 2-year plan is priced at just $69 ($2.87 per month). When considering the long term plans, PureVPN actually becomes one of the cheaper VPN options around.
There is no trial period available, but PureVPN provides a 7-day money back guarantee in case you are unhappy with the service. However, there is an odd catch here worth noting. You are only eligible to get a refund if you’ve used less than 3 GB of data or fewer than 100 sessions. This is buried in the terms of service and you’ll have to dig to find it, which isn’t a great look.
You don’t have the option to directly pay with a debit or credit card and need to use Paypal instead. A slew of other payment options are available as well, including multiple cryptocurrencies, PaymentWalls, and regional wallets. PureVPN also lets you pay using gift cards from a variety of stores like Best Buy, Starbucks, Sears, Walmart, JC Penney, and more. This is definitely an odd option, but if you were wondering what else you can use that Lowe’s gift card for, this is it.
Easy to download and install applications are available for Windows, iOS, Mac, and Android, and browser extensions are also available for Chrome and Firefox. PureVPN is also compatible with streaming devices like Android TVs, the Amazon Firestick, and Kodi boxes, and useful installation guides are available to set up PureVPN directly on your Wi-Fi router.
You can find the full list of compatible devices and available installation guides here. The device list isn’t as comprehensive as the other VPNs I’ve tested, but the mainstream devices and OS’ are covered. In this review, we will be taking a detailed look at the Windows and Android applications.
Setup and settings
Unlike the other VPN services where you are greeted with a world map, server lists, or a large “Connect now” button when you log in, PureVPN does things quite differently.
You will first have to select a “mode” to get started. These modes include Stream, Internet Freedom, Security/Privacy, File Sharing, and Dedicated IP (which requires an add-on service). You select the mode you want based on how you want to use the VPN. The mode can always be changed in the Settings menu later on.
Every mode brings up a slightly different dashboard and options, so here’s a quick breakdown.
- Stream – As the name suggests, this is the mode you use if you are looking to stream content online. The dashboard includes a list of countries and cities you can connect to, sorted by ping. This option is ideal for circumventing geolocation restrictions on various streaming apps, and PureVPN makes it very easy. All you have to do is switch over to the “Purpose” tab, and here you will see a list of choices like Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO Now, CW TV, ABC TV, and a whole lot more. Select a streaming service and the app automatically chooses the best server for you.
- Internet Freedom – The Internet Freedom dashboard is largely similar to the Stream section. However, the purpose tab has additional options like VoIP, online gaming, Social Media, and more.
- Security/Privacy – This brings up the standard list of countries and cities to which you can connect, with the server locations sorted based on ping. There is no purpose tab available. You get additional security features available to you here by tapping on “Ozone,” where you will see options like anti-virus, intruder detection and protection, as well as URL, app, and content filtering.
- File sharing – No purpose tab is available here either, but the list of server locations is filtered to show only those best suited for P2P file sharing. Additional settings are available under “P2P protection,” that include virus and malware protection and content filtering.
Despite the various available user-friendly modes, the server list is actually pretty standard — unless you are using this VPN for something specific like P2P or streaming. You will quickly figure out which servers are best for you, and can then save them as your favorites.
Clicking on the gear icon at the top right corner opens the Preferences page. You can change the mode here, set up app and protocol settings, select advanced security features like the Internet Kill Switch, VPN Hotspot, and Split Tunneling (more on these later). You can also send a support ticket from the Preferences menu.
The PureVPN Android app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store here. The Android app is basically an easier to use version of the Windows app. It starts with the same “modes” page. Once you select one, you can tap the large “Connect” button and the app will automatically choose the best server for you.
If you are looking for a specific location, you can switch over to the Countries or Cities tabs. Like the Windows app, modes like Stream and Internet Freedom have an additional purposes tab as well. The Preferences menu — called settings in the Android app — is also similar, offering the same advanced security features and options.
Ease of use
PureVPN completely takes the guesswork out of server selection and finding the best options for you, which is great for the first-time user. All you need to do is select the mode you want, and you can either connect to the servers closest to you or find something specific via the purposes tab.
The Settings or Preferences menu is simple, and the various features come with small descriptions to make them easier to understand. Both the Windows and Android apps offer the same settings, features, and connectivity options, so there isn’t a learning curve when switching between them.
Security and privacy
PureVPN is based in Hong Kong which has no data retention laws. However, Hong Kong’s close proximity and affiliation with China may prove problematic, given China’s massive crackdown on VPN services and their use.
On paper, PureVPN checks all the right boxes for security and privacy features. It’s got advanced features like antivirus, malware protection, intruder detection and protection, Internet Kill Switch (that turns off internet connectivity of the VPN drops), VPN Hotspot (to provide a safe and secure connection to multiple devices), and more.
I tested for IP leaks, WebRTC detection, and DNS leaks using ipleak.net and found no issues. I ran the test multiple times while working on this review because there have been some reports from other users about IP and DNS leaks. I can’t say whether PureVPN fixed this issue since the reports surfaced last year or I was just lucky. Still, considering VPNs are supposed to be about providing privacy… PureVPN is a service we’d think very carefully about using, especially if your use case might fall into gray areas in your region.
To test the speed, I used the Ookla Speed Test. As PureVPN does things somewhat differently, I didn’t use my standard list of servers around the world like the U.S., Australia, U.K., Germany, and Singapore. Instead, I tested the best servers for each available mode and specific purposes.
For the Stream mode, I connected to the best servers for accessing the US Netflix catalog, BBC iPlayer (U.K. server), and Hulu (Singapore server). The speed was definitely good enough for me to comfortably stream shows and movies on these services. However, none were as fast as what I got from some of the other VPN services I’ve reviewed, like ExpressVPN.
The Internet Freedom and Security/Privacy modes have the same list of servers. Internet Freedom lets you pick a specific purpose, like VoIP or Internet gaming, but the fastest servers in both cases were identical. So in this section, I also tested some servers far away from me like in Australia and Brazil to see how the speed holds up. Finally, I tested the File Sharing mode by connecting to the top P2P friendly server on the list based on ping.
The speed test results are above average. These aren’t the fastest speeds or lowest ping times I’ve seen, but they’re definitely not bad. The modes and purposes are really helpful when you want to do something specific. They’re definitely big positives for first-time users.
- Allows up to five concurrent connections, which is more than most.
- Zero activity logging, but connections are logged.
- Over 750 server locations around the world.
- Torrenting works fine and it is easy to find the right server to use for this purpose. Remember to respect your country’s copyright laws. We do not condone or encourage any illegal activities.
- You can unblock or circumvent geolocation restrictions for various streaming websites.
- Lots of security features like Internet Kill Switch, VPN Hotspot, Split Tunneling, and more.
- 24/7 customer service available.
- Comparatively expensive, unless you opt for long-term annual or two-year plans.
PureVPN – should you get it?
Honestly, that’s a hard question. And for many, no might be the best response.
PureVPN is a fantastic VPN service on paper. The long term subscription plans make it cheaper than most. It’s got a a host of basic and advanced security features. The apps are very easy to use and ideal for a first time VPN user. The speeds are just average, but it is definitely fast enough to do whatever you need.
However, the company’s previous lack of transparency is a significant concern. The connection logging may be a problem for some. The odd caveats of the money-back guarantee, which are hard to find in the first place, will raise some eyebrows. I didn’t find any issues with IP leaks during my testing, but there have too many reports to entirely ignore.
PureVPN does a lot of things right. More transparency would go a long way in making it one of the best options out there. Until then, this isn’t the easiest VPN service to recommend. There are other options out there with which consumers will definitely be more comfortable.
Like what you see and aren’t put off by some of the concerns highlighted above? You can sign up for PureVPN here. Not impressed? By sure to check out ExpressVPN, NordVPN, or IPVanish. We’ll also be bringing you even more quick review looks at some of the best VPNs in the weeks and months to come.
March 22, 2018 at 05:41PM