NordVPN holds the No. 2 spot on our list of VPN reviews, falling just short of ExpressVPN. If you read our NordVPN review, you can see we love it for its easy-to-use design, reliable security and excellent long-term pricing.
PureVPN, on the other hand, is much further down the rankings, but if you check out our PureVPN review from over a year ago, you can see things were improving. Since then, the pricing and some of the features PureVPN offers have changed.
With that in mind, we decided to give PureVPN a shot at the big leagues to see how it performs against one of our favorites.
Setting Up a Fight: NordVPN vs. PureVPN
To ensure that NordVPN and PureVPN compete on a fair playing field we’ve devised a five-round system. In each round, we look at a certain critical aspect of VPNs, including features, pricing, ease of use, speed and security.
At the end of each round, we determine which of the two competitors performed better and assign a point based on that. The VPN with the most points at the end of five rounds is declared the winner.
As we saw in our ExpressVPN vs NordVPN matchup, NordVPN isn’t the strongest VPN option when it comes to features, so this round could set PureVPN up with an early lead. The critical things we’ll keep an eye out for in this section are that the VPN offers a kill switch and can connect automatically on start-up.
Those two features are important because they set up a strong foundation for online security when paired with the right encryption and protocol, which we’ll look at in the “security and privacy” section. Anything a VPN includes outside of those things is icing on the cake and will improve its customizability.
Also in this section, we’ll look at the kind of streaming performance you can expect when accessing geoblocked content, such as that on Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
NordVPN does a good job of covering the basic features. The kill switch is easy to find, though it isn’t on by default, and the client can be configured to open automatically on start-up.
You can make the application automatically connect when it opens and choose where it’ll auto-connect to. In addition to the internet kill switch that turns off your connection if you lose the secure VPN connection, there’s an app kill switch that lets you define a list of programs for NordVPN to terminate if the VPN connection is lost.
In the settings, you can set your computer to be invisible to other devices on the network, which is great for added protection when using public WiFi. If you dig deeper into the settings, you’ll find more advanced options, including switching the protocol between TCP and UDP and the option to set up a custom DNS server.
NordVPN’s client was recently upgraded with a feature called CyberSec. It’s a malware filter that helps block ads and potentially malicious content. Though it’s nice to have, we suggest that people concerned about that type of threat use a full-fledged antivirus software.
As for streaming, NordVPN was able to breeze through the VPN detection of every streaming service we tried, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and BBC Player (read our guide on how to watch Netflix with NordVPN).
One of the first things you’re presented with in the PureVPN client is several “mode” options. They include streaming, internet freedom and security. The differences between them aren’t clear, so it’s hard to call them a feature.
Moving past those, PureVPN has an impressive array of features that, in some cases, are unusual. For one, it can make your device into a VPN WiFi hotspot, allowing you to connect other devices to the secure tunnel.
It also covers the critical features we mentioned, offering a kill switch and the ability to connect automatically on start-up. It even has a setting for it to reconnect automatically if the connection is lost.
By turning on beta features, you get a split tunneling option that PureVPN is still working on. It lets you choose which programs use the secure VPN connection and which ones use the unprotected internet connection.
We’ll look at protocols more in the “security and privacy” section, but it’s worth mentioning while we’re looking at features that PureVPN lets you choose from a long list of options, including OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP and more.
Finally, PureVPN was able to get us to Netflix and Hulu content, but Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer thwarted it, no matter which mode we tried.
Round One Thoughts
NordVPN isn’t known for being a feature-rich VPN and, for the most part, only gives you the essential features. PureVPN has a new split tunneling feature, an unusual hotspot feature and many protocols that NordVPN doesn’t support.
Overall, PureVPN offers more features and gives users more control over how the VPN runs and behaves. That said, it underperforms compared to NordVPN when it comes to streaming content, so if that’s the main thing you’re after, NordVPN might still be a better bet.
Point for PureVPN
It’s impossible to compare anything you’re shopping for without considering the price. In this section, we won’t only look at how much each VPN costs, though. We’ll also consider their refund policies, if they offer a free trial and which payment methods they accept.
With all that information, we’ll piece together a holistic view of what being a paying customer with NordVPN and PureVPN is like, then assign a point based on which one’s pricing and policies are better.
As we saw in our NordVPN vs CyberGhost matchup, NordVPN’s pricing is a bit rough at first glance. The monthly pricing is expensive enough to be comparable with most of the high-end VPNs on the market. The one year plan offers considerable savings, but the pricing is still in line with other premium VPN options.
Where NordVPN shines, though, is its multi-year pricing. The two and three-year plans give customers a deep discount and make NordVPN one of the most affordable VPNs out there. Each plan allows users to connect up to six devices and provides unlimited bandwidth.
There’s no free trial, but NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for customers who aren’t satisfied (find out how to cancel NordVPN and get a refund). For payment, it takes credit cards, cryptocurrencies and a handful of obscure payment options such as Amazon Pay, UnionPay and Alipay.
PureVPN’s monthly plan is priced comparably to NordVPN’s, coming in at about a buck per month less. Its annual pricing gives users a huge discount, though, and is well below NordVPN’s annual cost.
In fact, PureVPN’s annual cost is comparable to NordVPN’s three-year plan when broken into the monthly price. PureVPN also offers a two-year option that’s the best bargain out of the plans offered by our two competitors.
PureVPN doesn’t offer a free trial, but it has a 31-day money-back guarantee, which beats NordVPN’s policy by one day. Each account can connect a maximum of five devices and your devices are given unlimited bandwidth.
Lastly, PureVPN takes more forms of payment than NordVPN, including bitcoin, credit cards, PayPal, Alipay and even gift cards. It’s important to note, though, that gift cards and cryptocurrency aren’t refundable.
Round Two Thoughts
NordVPN has built a name for itself thanks to the value offered by its two and three-year plans. That said, PureVPN is more affordable in every time frame and accepts more forms of payment.
Plus, though neither VPN offers a free plan, PureVPN’s 31-day refund policy beats NordVPN’s by one day, meaning PureVPN takes the point for this round.
Point for PureVPN
3. User Friendliness
Ease of use is the most subjective thing we look at in our matchups, but it’s important to give you a clear idea of what it’s like to use the VPNs we’re comparing. In this round, we’ll look at the layout of the client and how things are presented.
We’ll then try to determine how well the user experience for each VPN is constructed and assign a point to whichever provider was able to produce a more refined and user-friendly VPN.
NordVPN has one of the best-looking clients on the market. When you open the application, you’re greeted with a screen that’s mostly taken by a map of the world. The map has blue bubbles over many locations that you can click to connect to a VPN server in that country (read our guide to why NordVPN is not connecting if you have problems).
You can zoom in and out on the map with your scroll wheel, making it easy to get a good view of the globe and available locations. To the left of the map is a list of servers that are alphabetized and have the flag next to the name of each country, so it’s easy to browse. There’s also a search bar at the top of the server list to help you find the location you’re looking for.
The NordVPN settings menus are also laid out well and make it easy to find everything. The wording on all the settings is also well-done and each option has a clear explanation of what it does.
PureVPN’s client’s layout is much less streamlined than NordVPN’s. Instead of having a map, the screen you’re greeted with is a dark window with a drop-down box to select your desired location and a button that lets you connect to the VPN.
The list of locations isn’t alphabetized, making it harder to browse, but it has a search bar. The settings menus are laid out badly and there are too many tabs dividing things into categories on the left side of the screen.
Though most of the major things that users would look for and try to change are on the app settings tab, for some reason the kill switch is hidden under the advanced options tab and off by default. What’s worse is that the mode selection also gets its own tab in the settings menu, but it’s still unclear what the modes do.
There are also notifications in several areas of the client that some features are being discontinued soon, such as a malware blocker called “gravity.” The constant state of being under construction paired with having too many tabs makes the client feel hectic and it’s easy to get lost searching for certain things.
Round Three Thoughts
NordVPN has a refined and aesthetically pleasing client. It makes it easy, pleasant even, to use and find what you’re looking for in the settings.
PureVPN, on the other hand, has a client that seems messy and makes things much harder to find by comparison. For that reason, the obvious winner in this round is NordVPN.
Point for NordVPN
Speed is the most scientific section when it comes to our testing methodology. To ensure consistent and fair results, we set each VPN to run the OpenVPN protocol and AES 256-bit encryption.
Additionally, we test each VPN in the same five locations and use our unprotected speed for comparison. We then use that data, along with anecdotal evidence regarding what it’s like to surf the web with each VPN, to determine which one offers better speeds.
In our testing, NordVPN offered a respectable and consistent performance, but it wasn’t good enough to make it onto our fastest VPN list. Though some servers, such as the U.S., performed well and only lost a small portion of our speed, others, namely Japan and Brazil, were much slower, retaining as little as half of our unprotected bandwidth.
|Location:||Ping (ms)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)|
|United Kingdom #201||153||34.78||6.06|
|Double VPN (U.S. to Canada #4)||79||20.48||8.64|
That said, even on those slower and more distant servers, the browsing experience was responsive. Websites loaded without much noticeable delay and videos streamed just fine at high resolution.
Many of the ping times we saw were also impressive, and nearby servers had low enough pings that NordVPN could serve you well as a VPN for gaming. Though NordVPN doesn’t have stunning performance when it comes to speed, it’s reliable and fast enough that most day-to-day tasks won’t feel noticeably slower.
Though the first server we tested PureVPN on performed well and gave us almost all our unprotected bandwidth, the rest were poor performers. The UK, Japan and South Africa servers took half to over three-quarters of our bandwidth.
|Locations:||Ping (ms):||Download (Mbps):||Upload (Mbps):|
|New York City||234||16.38||1.25|
|Los Angeles, CA||363||17.19||1.07|
The browsing experience on the servers was worse than what we experienced with NordVPN, too. Even the servers that were faster on paper, such as Brazil, caused a noticeable one to two-second delay before websites loaded.
Watching videos was also much more sluggish, with some videos defaulting to low resolution and others needing to buffer before starting. We didn’t see that to nearly as bad a degree while using NordVPN.
Round Four Thoughts
This round is a clear victory for NordVPN. It offered much more consistent performance on paper, with none of the servers dipping as low as more than half of the PureVPN servers we tested.
On top of that, NordVPN was much more responsive across the board when surfing the web compared to PureVPN, which often took a noticeable extra second or two to start loading websites.
Point for NordVPN
5. Security and Privacy
In case you haven’t been keeping score, it’s two to two, so this final round will determine the winner of the match. With that in mind, let’s quickly go over what we look for in security and privacy.
As mentioned in the “features” section, NordVPN only comes equipped with OpenVPN by default, but there are guides on its website that tell how to get IKEv2. NordVPN pairs those protocols with AES 256-bit encryption, which, as you can read in our encryption rundown, is secure.
NordVPN gathers an email address and payment method for account creation. That’s the minimum amount of information needed to maintain an account and can be circumvented by using a burner email. When using the VPN, the only information gathered is server load-related, so none of the information collected is identifiable in any way.
Finally, on its website, NordVPN collects information about how people are using the website to help maintain and improve it. If you read our anonymous browsing guide, you’ll find that’s an inescapable reality online.
PureVPN offers many encryption options to users, including IKEv2, PPTP, L2TP and OpenVPN. It also lets users choose between 128-bit and 256-bit encryption, meaning it has the gold standard of OpenVPN and AES 256-bit.
That said, in 2017, the company was able to give information to the police in a cybercrime case that led to an arrest. Naturally, PureVPN users had a lot of questions about how it was able to provide identifying information that could lead to an arrest, and in response, it published this post defending itself.
Round Five Thoughts
NordVPN and PureVPN passed our security testing with no detectable DNS or data leaks. Both VPNs also give you the ability to use OpenVPN and AES 256-bit, a pairing that offers tight security and solid performance.
That said, when it comes to privacy, NordVPN has a good policy and no history of having any information it shouldn’t or using that information in a way that’s unfavorable to its customers. PureVPN, on the other hand, has shown that it’s willing to turn over information that’s incriminating and identifying. For that reason, NordVPN is the clear winner in this round.
Point for NordVPN
6. Final Thoughts
PureVPN was able to secure an early lead thanks to its wider feature set and better pricing, but NordVPN tied it up in the “ease of use” and “speed” rounds. Finally, in our last round, we got our winner, with a final score of three to two for NordVPN.
Though NordVPN might not have quite as many features as PureVPN, it gets to geoblocked content better. On top of that, the better speed, ease of use and privacy and security make it a better overall option for almost anyone.
If you’ve used NordVPN or PureVPN, we’re interested in hearing about your experiences with them in the comments. Thanks for reading.