PureVPN is a provider with great ideas that lacks badly in execution.
By Fedor Karmanov – Last Updated: 19 Mar'18
PureVPN has a lot going for it on paper: it’s backed by a more-or-less reputable company with plenty of solid features. Unfortunately, PureVPN fails to deliver and falls short of any of our best VPN services. During the testing phase of this review everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.
The service had countless connection problems, the application crashed over five times and almost nothing worked. If you’re looking to buy a VPN service that will reliably protect and anonymize your connection, you may want to check out any of our other VPN reviews.
To find out why we gave it a thumbs-down, keep reading. If you’re uninterested in following our advice, you can sign up for the service at purevpn, though you may be rolling the dice on the promised seven-day money-back guarantee.
- Interesting features
- Good selection of servers
- Almost nothing works
- Application crashed often
- Expect to restart your computer
- Multiple security issues
PureVPN’s overwhelming technical issues are a shame, mainly because the service has some interesting ideas. One of these interesting ideas is a feature that lets you choose between several “modes” that will optimize your connection based on intended usage.
When you choose a specific mode, the application will display all the advantages of the chosen mode as a list of toggles.
You get several mode choices: the application has a mode for streaming, a mode that protects against firewalls and geoblocking, a mode for security and privacy and a mode that supposedly helps with torrenting. While these modes are interesting in theory, their usefulness was very limited.
In the “stream” mode above, for example, the window points out that “fast streaming” is “enabled.” I guess what the application is saying is your connection is faster than, say, if you were using the “privacy /security” mode. During our speed tests, however, there was no noticeable difference in speed between the different modes.
The other problem is that these “modes” often felt like copies of one another. What exactly is the difference between the “streaming” and “file-sharing” modes? Or what about the difference between “internet freedom” and the “security / privacy” mode? In the end, these terms just sounded like buzzwords inserted by the marketing team to distinguish PureVPN from the competition.
The speed and the quality of the connection were our biggest concerns, however. During our tests, the VPN connections would often get dropped for what seemed like no reason at all. Both download and upload speeds suffered considerably: even connections in the same city brought our download speeds to a quarter of what they were originally.
PureVPN also had many problems with security and privacy.
The only mode that actually had a distinct number of features from the others was the “security/privacy” option. These “advanced security features” included an antivirus, a content filtering option and an “IDS/IPS” intrusion protection feature.
Again, it’s not really clear what the “antivirus” or the “IDS/IPS” features are supposed to do, but I assume that it does something similar to a firewall. Finding any more information about these features and modes proved impossible, as I quickly found out while browsing PureVPN’s uninformative knowledgebase.
Other, more intuitive, features behave very strangely. For instance, the way that the application goes about content filtering is quite odd. Upon clicking the “configure” link, which you can see in the screenshot below, you are sent to a webpage that lists the possible topics that you can block.
The website gives you the option to filter out by topic, and by topic only: you can filter out “cults,” “job search” websites and “dating personals,” but you can’t actually see what websites are a part of that filter. This is a common pattern that you will stumble across when using PureVPN; if you try to use something as advertised it either does something you weren’t expecting or crashes the application altogether.
Other features are well-intentioned but either don’t work or work very poorly. We really liked the idea that PureVPN lets you select the protocol for your connection. In fact, that is a major selling-point for the service on its website: users have the choice between OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, SSTP and IKEv2 when securing their connection.
Again, L2TP worked fine if the service connected at all; with the other protocols, the application would either take over a minute to connect or would refuse the connection entirely. While it’s hard to say what’s at fault here, it looks a bit like PureVPN has some unresolved server-load balancing issues. Here’s a screenshot of what I would see after a failed connection:
The other security features, such as the killswitch, were complete flops. Scroll down to the security section for more details on that.
All in all, PureVPN has an interesting collection of features that are completely undercut by the application’s poor execution of them.
PureVPN’s pricing is slightly above the market average. The monthly subscription comes out to just under $11 per month, with the steepest discounts at the two-year mark, making it just a bit more expensive than other, far better services. See our ExpressVPN review or NordVPN review for examples.
$ 10 95monthly
$ 4 91yearly
$ 2 872 years
PureVPN also has a seven-day money-back guarantee, although many user reviews online claim that PureVPN has never issued them a requested refund.
Due to the quantity of these concerns online, as well as the comments below this review, we really recommend avoiding the two-year subscription option if you can help it (please note that we requested, and received, a trial account from the service for review purposes). Payment can be made with any major credit card, PayPal, retail gift cards and most cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin.
There’s really no way around this: PureVPN crashes more often than a five-year old learning to ride a bicycle. While we were testing the service’s features, the desktop application crashed five times, making the application’s instability one of the most consistent features of the service.
Other times, the application decided that it didn’t want to connect to a VPN server, becoming unresponsive in the process. As you can probably tell by now, reviewing PureVPN was a frustrating process.
While we would recommend the modes as an interesting way of making it easier for new users to learn the ins and outs of how a VPN works, the constant malfunctions made them a nightmare to use.
Streaming video services were especially disappointing, considering that PureVPN advertises the stream mode as specially designed to circumvent geoblocking.
PureVPN’s “purpose” server selection lets you choose a server that’s supposed to overcome some geoblocking restrictions, but that doesn’t work either. For example, in the screenshot below, you can see that PureVPN has the option for “Netflix US” and “BBC iPlayer” streaming.
Neither connection successfully bypassed a Netflix or the BBC’s VPN detection systems, making these options useless.
Since there is one server option under each one, PureVPN doesn’t really give you a good amount of IPs to try before calling it quits. If streaming is one of the reasons you’re considering getting a VPN, you’re better off checking out our best VPN for Netflix or best VPN for BBC iPlayer articles.
PureVPN supports most devices and platforms, including Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux; this review focused primarily on the Mac and iOS applications. The iOS app worked well, but exhibited many of the server connection problems outlined in the Mac application above.
The Chrome and Firefox applications were abysmal. During tests, we struggled with getting either one of the extensions to connect. After 15 minutes of fiddling with the connection options, we gave up trying to review that aspect of the service.
The router option is also a bit misleading: PureVPN does not offer pre-flashed routers, but goes out of its way to assure its customers that several router brands are supported. This is true but redundant, at least in the sense that most routers support VPN connections out of the box.
PureVPN has over 750 servers in 180 different locations worldwide, amounting to 141 different countries that your connection could go through. The service displays all of this information in a global map accessible inside of the main application window, which you can see above.
This aspect of the service also had its issues. First of all, most of the servers I tried for the speed tests simply wouldn’t connect at all. Secondly, almost every single server I tested had horrible latency issues.
This is particularly unusual, seeing as some of the servers that I was trying to access were very close geographically. The recommended server for me in the U.S., for example, showed a ping of 16ms in the application. When I did the speed test, however, speedtest.net showed me an actual ping of 91ms.
The discrepancy between actual ping and reported ping is, as it turns out, due to PureVPN using virtual servers to create more locations for their selection of IP addresses.
Unfortunately, PureVPN never points out which servers are virtual and which ones are physical, which might mean, for instance, that while you think you’re connected to a server in Angola, the actual server might physically be located in San Antonio, CA.
Apart from being deceptive, this is a major security flaw that can also contribute to the ping and speed issues mentioned above.
PureVPN’s connection speeds were really bad during our tests, possibly due to the use of virtual servers outlined above. Speeds across all of the connections dropped down to over a quarter of the original speed.
Here are the results:
|Home||49.57 Mbps||62.30 Mbps|
|US (Recommended)||49.57 Mbps||30.60 Mbps|
|UK||13.98 Mbps||30.16 Mbps|
|Colombo Sri Lanka||9.31 Mbps||3.86 Mbps|
Other servers, such as the one in the Netherlands, simply didn’t work so we couldn’t include those findings here. Overall, these scores are fairly disappointing, considering the fast connection speeds that we started out with and the fast connection speeds that PureVPN brags about.
PureVPN’s dysfunctional security and privacy settings were easily the most troubling aspect of our tests. The complete disregard for ensuring that these security features work correctly was frustrating from an ethical standpoint — it made it very clear to us that PureVPN is openly willing to risk the safety of its customers.
After switching on all of the proper security features available in the settings pane of the PureVPN app, we tested for leaks. Again, I was disappointed: I experienced IPv4 and IPv6 security leaks in the Mac OS application, which is a huge issue if you need to keep your identity safe.
Furthermore, the killswitch feature, which is supposed to sever you from the Internet if a connection is lost and so keep you anonymous, also blocked the program itself and locked up my computer. A system reboot and a PureVPN application reinstall later and my computer was back online.
If we were in a country where anonymity online is important to personal safety, we would avoid PureVPN like the plague.
As far as VPN services go, PureVPN’s customer service was mediocre, at best. When I contacted PureVPN support about my connection problems, they redirected me to a knowledgebase article that did not solve any of my problems. The reply was quick, though, so credit where credit is due.
Ultimately, PureVPN does not offer tech support over the phone or any kind of tech support live chat — although it does have a live chat for sales. Discussions on reddit from 2017 have especially criticized the company’s deceitful marketing tactics and poor customer service in that regard.
While we understand that no company is infallible, these reviews show a troubling indication of how PureVPN treats its customers.
If you’ve gotten this far into the review, the verdict should be clear: stay away from PureVPN. At best, you’re getting a affordable two-year subscription to a VPN that works occasionally. At worst, you’re paying monthly to get a dysfunctional product at above-market prices.
At the end of the day, you need a VPN service that is reliable, fast and respects your privacy. PureVPN is none of those things and we recommend you choose any other service from our VPN comparison chart, instead.