PureVPN has been around for quite some time and has garnered quite the reputation for itself, and not a good one. This is the third time we’ve reviewed it and we were expecting the worst after our earlier tests showed DNS leaks, poor encryption, horrible speeds, terrible customer service, badly written documentation and a refund policy that was roundly ignored — among other issues.
Just because it’s not a good service doesn’t make it a bad one, however. The team behind PureVPN has obviously been hard at work and we could this time around see that there are people who could benefit from using it. The server network is huge, for one, and the price is right for people looking to invest in the long term.
If you’d like to see what the best in the market has to offer, we recommend you read our ExpressVPN review (or our PureVPN vs ExpressVPN comparison article if you like to see how the two match up). If, however, you’d like to know more about PureVPN before making a decision, read on as we lift the hood and kick the tires.
- Huge server network
- Five-year pricing plan
- Five simultaneous connections
- Some cool features
- Security is questionable
- Broken English across the site
- No BBC iPlayer
- Few servers access Netflix
- Add-ons are nonsense
PureVPN has some pretty cool and unique features, it has to be said, though they generally do not stack up to the mediocrity of the basic package. We’ll talk more about the basics in the sections below and focus here on the extras.
First up is a unique feature that allows you to use PureVPN as a mobile hotspot, a really handy feature we’re surprised more of our best VPN providers haven’t implemented. We messed with it a little and really liked it as it helps extend some protection to your friends while using public WiFi.
We’re less blown away by the other features, such as the antivirus. Though we understand that a VPN might want to offer one, being security-focused software and all (Avast has both an antivirus and a VPN, for example), in the case of PureVPN this may be a case of overstretch and we’d suggest you look at our best antivirus solutions as a secondary line of defense.
PureVPN also offers several so-called filters, which work as a malware blocker and parental control. They worked fairly well, but setting up the URL and app filter was a massive task that took way too much menu navigation to be user friendly. If you read our NordVPN review, you’ll quickly find the competition simply does a better job.
PureVPN and Streaming (Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Hulu)
PureVPN advertises itself as one of the best VPN for streaming, but this is very much not the case. During our tests we checked several servers for access to Netflix and only one worked. That one was, usefully, in New York and had good speeds, but this result is still a far cry from our best VPN for Netflix picks.
If you’re looking for the best VPN for iPlayer, we also recommend you keep looking. If you’re looking to watch Match of the Day or BBC original series, all you’ll encounter is an apologetic message saying you’re not in the UK. PureVPN also did not work on Hulu or Amazon Prime.
PureVPN Features Overview
PureVPN is a little cheaper than most, though not enough to make an impression. We have our doubts whether customers actually get their money’s worth on the basic plans, though as you can read in the subsection below we recommend against signing up for the service’s add-ons.
$ 10 95monthly
$ 49 80yearly
$ 59 762 years
$ 99 005 years
Officially the service only offers monthly, annual and biannual plans, but a recurring pop-up while on the site advertised a five-year plan. As the timer on that pop-up kept resetting, we decided to include it in the table.
When you go to the PureVPN website, you’ll currently be greeted by a massive banner that proclaims the service’s 11th anniversary sale and the message “77% off for lifetime on our 2-year plan.”
We contacted sales to clear up this incredibly confusing phrasing and it turns out that if you sign up now, then every time you renew it will be the same $59 deal. Same goes for the five-year plan. It’s a pretty decent bargain, but we do feel the use of the word “lifetime” is a bit misleading, here.
If a lifetime subscription is what you’re after, you may want to check out our VPN Unlimited review instead, the only VPN service that we know of which offers plans for life.
Taken altogether, the only plan that really springs out at us is the five-year one, at $99 it’s a steal, though that same money would get you three years with CyberGhost, an inarguably better service. If you’d rather just go year-to-year, which, considering PureVPN’s track record might be a better idea anyway, check out our PIA review for the cheapest best VPN out there.
When signing up to PureVPN (more on that in the section below), you have the option to tack on some extra services, thankfully left unchecked by default (an example some of the providers in our best web hosting selection could learn from). Most of these extra service are completely bogus, with the exception of the dedicated IP, though the DDoS protection is likely nonsense.
Curious to find out more about what exactly these extra charges were for — the P2P protection, for example, would add an extra $24 on the two-year plan, almost half again what it costs — we contacted sales. During a long, long chat session, we found out that the service is very unclear on what exactly those extra $2 per month got us.
We would like to note that the sales agent’s expertise regarding VPNs and torrenting should be taken with a truckload of salt. Check out our article on the best VPN for torrenting instead if you’re a fan of P2P file-sharing and no matter what you do, do not sign up for PureVPN’s add-ons as they seem solely designed to knock extra money out of your pocket.
PureVPN Money-Back Guarantee
Like many other VPN services, PureVPN offers a refund policy so you can test it for yourself. In this case it’s a 31-day money-back guarantee, one day more than most of its competitors. This feels a bit gimmicky to us and gives the impression that the service just wanted to be able to claim to have the longest in the business.
In the past, however, both in our own experience as well as that of enraged commenters below this review, PureVPN has not honored this guarantee. This time around we were pleasantly surprised to have our original payment refunded, and quickly, too. The only problem is that customer support reps will ask you why you’re leaving, in direct contradiction to what’s stated on the site.
In this case we reminded the rep that we didn’t have to answer questions and they surrendered quickly, we recommend others do the same.
Signing up for PureVPN is easy, just go to the website, click on the “pricing” button and you’re presented with a screen like most VPNs offer.
We didn’t bother with any of those extra options (you can read more about them in our “pricing” section) and went straight on to signing up. As we were rather leery seeing our experiences in the past — not to mention those of other people — we opted to go with PayPal for this one (we’re still hurting from our experience when researching our VikingVPN review).
Once you’re signed up you’ll get a step-by-step progress bar with steps you need to undertake. One of the steps, which isn’t explained very well, is that you get two sets of keys when signing up: one for the app and one for the site. The email you get is for the client only, we had to get our login details for the site by manually requesting a password reset.
If you decide on using PureVPN, you may also want to invest in one of our best password managers, unless you like getting confused.
With all your details sorted, you can download the client. For this review we ran a virtual machine with Windows 7 installed and used that client for testing and screenshots.
Log into the client, and you’re presented with this very basic screen which seems copypasta’d from CyberGhost (read our CyberGhost review for our thoughts on that interface). As far as we can tell, “internet freedom” and “security” are pretty much the same thing, so we wonder why PureVPN opted for this lopsided design.
If forced to choose — and let’s be honest, we kinda are — we prefer CyberGhost’s client just because it’s a lot more colorful. We placed the two UIs side by side in the image below, left is PureVPN, right is CyberGhost.
The similar design doesn’t stop at this screen, either: once you click through, PureVPN’s client is obviously a clone of CyberGhost’s.
However, it’s not a very good clone. For one, the interface is really dark and practically unusable if you have a dark desktop background. The font is also hard to read. Nor is it scalable, your nearsighted reviewer spent way too much time and effort squinting to find what he was looking for rather than actually using the VPN, a real pain.
Connecting with PureVPN
The only way to find a server with PureVPN is to go through the list, you have either a country or city filter available. We would recommend you use the country filter as some of its city locations are pretty obscure. There is also a search function that responds pretty quickly.
Connection times are okay, nowhere near the speeds of NordVPN, say, but not a test of patience as with ZenMate or Shellfire (read our ZenMate review and Shellfire review to read of our grueling trials).
We like that you’re shown a flag of where you’re connecting to, as it helps making sure you didn’t accidentally click the wrong location on the tiny interface.
We find it a bit odd that you’re given a listing of all the things optimized and enabled: PureVPN seems so hell-bent on convincing you that it’s a good service that it likes to point out the obvious.
PureVPN’s setting are found in two different spots in the client. First up is Ozone, which is the collective name for the extra features which PureVPN offers. You can access it through the regular dashboard.
As we mentioned in the “features” section, we think the Ozone suite has some nifty ideas, but the tweaking and twiddling necessary is a ridiculous amount of work. The app and URL filtering functions, for instance, require you to go through layers upon layers of menus seeking the site or program you want to deny internet access, a laborious process.
The second set of settings can be accessed through the mode selection screen, on the left-hand pane (next to the tiles that lead you to the modes).
Your basic settings can be found under “app settings,” and are the kind of general utility features all VPNs have. You can choose to have PureVPN automatically redial if your connection drops, have the connection sever on closing the app, etc.
The more interesting settings are found under “advanced options,” where you can set the killswitch, set up multiple ports and mess with your security settings.
We recommend you never untick the 256-bit security box, unless you badly need speed over security. If you’re in China or another country that censors the internet, AES 256 is a must, though we’d hesitate to use PureVPN over any of our picks for the best VPN for China or best VPN for Iran.
You can install PureVPN clients on Windows and Mac, as well as iOS and Android. It also offers extensions on Chrome and Firefox, though nothing to make it a clear contender for our title of the best VPN for Chrome. You can also install PureVPN on your router, handy for families and businesses that always want to be protected.
Using the OpenVPN protocol you can also install PureVPN on Linux, but it’s less work to pick from our selection of the best VPN for Linux, instead.
If you want to use PureVPN on more than one device, you’ll like the service. Though it is not, nor will it ever be, one of our best VPN for multiple devices, you can use it on a respectable five devices simultaneously, pretty handy if you and your partner both own laptops and smartphones.
PureVPN boasts over 2000 servers in more than 140 countries, giving it a network that rivals that of ExpressVPN or NordVPN. Much like ExpressVPN, many of the more exotic locations (including Papua New Guinea, Myanmar and Madagascar) are offered via virtual server, which may raise security issues for some. However, to PureVPN’s credit, they mark these well.
Unlike most other services, which keep the bulk of their servers in North America and Europe, PureVPN does not neglect Africa, Oceania or Latin America, meaning that if you want a truly global VPN, PureVPN may be a good pick for you, for all its faults.
We tested PureVPN’s speeds from a coworking space in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina by first measuring our speed without a VPN enabled and then connecting to several servers located around the globe (we avoided virtual servers for cleanest results). We used speedtest.net for all readings and put the results in the table below.
|Locations:||Ping (ms):||Download (Mbps):||Upload (Mbps):|
|New York City||234||16.38||1.25|
|Los Angeles, CA||363||17.19||1.07|
We were a little surprised to find these decent results as a year ago we were presented with the VPN equivalent of a snail’s pace. Though they are still far from those seen with the fastest VPN providers, they are also a far cry from disasters such as those we encountered while writing up our Hotspot Shield review.
However, this speed increase is partially due to PureVPN using a fast but dodgy protocol by default (more on that in the next section). Also, we generally found connections to be unreliable in that you never know when you’ll get unexpected slowdowns, which likely means that servers often get overloaded.
Security with PureVPN is iffy. On paper the service does everything right as it offers a range of protocols — all of them good on paper, though IKE is weak — and the choice between 128 and 256-bit encryption. Plenty of services have the same specs, but under the hood there is more going on than just some jargon.
Despite the boasting regarding its security on its promotional material — or, for that matter, the technobabble spewed at us by sales staff — it’s hard to not get the impression nobody at PureVPN actually knows how VPN security works.
For example, defaulting to the IKE protocol is a strange choice when you have other options available. Though its weaknesses are mostly rumor, OpenVPN is the protocol of choice for most other services — ExpressVPN and NordVPN use it as their default, as do many others — with only a tiny handful using IKE.
When we asked support about this, we were told that IKE is as secure as SSTP because it uses the same level of encryption. This may be true, but there is more to VPN security than just the encryption level and it’s a shame staff don’t convey that to customers.
However, back in October 2017 the service helped apprehend a cyberstalker who was terrorizing a woman and her family. The service congratulated itself on its cooperation with the relevant authorities, but then wrote this defensive blog post when questions were asked about how the service was able to assist the police — something we don’t really expect a VPN to do.
In this case PureVPN defends its actions by quoting their stance against cyberstalking. That may very well be, but here at Cloudwards.net we are of the opinion that taking PureVPN’s word on anything concerning security and privacy might be more risk than its worth. When it comes to these matters, PureVPN gets a hard thumbs down from us.
If you’re looking for a responsive staff and an extensive knowledgebase, you may want to avoid PureVPN. We chatted several times with support staff, but the tech side of the exchange felt a bit canned, with a lot of referrals to the FAQ section of the site, while the sales people (who handle basic enquiries) will tell you anything to make a sale, as we saw earlier in this review.
If you have a simple question, non-technical in nature, we recommend that you contact the sales department through the chat. The support staff are apparently busy, understaffed or both as getting them on the proverbial line can take quite some time.
The support staff have a better idea of what they’re talking about, but don’t always answer. When they do, their answers are often very off the cuff, showing that they know their stuff, but the less technically inclined may find their instructions to be rather succinct, which won’t fit well with people who don’t know their way around a VPN.
On top of that, the generally poor level of English of the staff becomes annoying as well after some time. Though we fully realize not everybody can be a native English speaker, we do feel that PureVPN’s staff could do with a crash course in written communication.
This problem persists in the knowledgebase, which feels cobbled together in large pieces and seems to not have been proofread. Not the biggest issue ever, of course, but it feels a bit sloppy, especially since the service does seem to pay a lot of attention to its marketing. The proofreaders are there, they’re just being used to attract customers, not help existing ones.
This is a shame as some of the service’s features, like the secure hotspot, are pretty cool and unique among VPNs. The server network is also good and it does get you into some countries’ Netflix sites. However, with the black cloud of privacy and security looming overhead, these upsides offer little sunshine.
What are your thoughts on PureVPN? We’d love to hear your feedback below, so please let us know. As always, thank you for reading.