ExpressVPN is the reigning champ of our virtual private network comparisons. It won by thin margins in our ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN match and dominated in our ExpressVPN vs. IPVanish guide. Even compared to IPVanish, though, there’s never been a wider gap in service than there is between PureVPN and ExpressVPN.
Contrary to other VPN review websites, we’ve always said PureVPN is mediocre, at best. In this PureVPN vs. ExpressVPN comparison, we’re going to take an analytical approach to showing you why it shouldn’t even be in the conversation when ExpressVPN is an option.
Though we’ve spoiled our conclusion, there are surprises along the way. We’re going to compare these providers point by point and give our thoughts of what works and what doesn’t. If you want more information on them, read our ExpressVPN review and PureVPN review.
Setting Up a Fight: PureVPN vs. ExpressVPN
Reviewing a VPN provider is a big undertaking and, because of that, we have a lot of criteria in our VPN reviews. Though useful for evaluating a provider against the rest of the market, not all sections are or should be weighted equally, so we’re condensing our criteria for this comparison.
Instead of the nine rounds in our reviews, we’ve shortened this comparison to five: features, pricing, ease of use, speed and security. During the rounds, we’ll cover everything we do in our reviews, but some areas will be combined. For example, privacy is in the security round and simultaneous connections is in the pricing round.
Each round counts for a point. You can track the points each provider has earned at the bottom of the rounds as we go through the comparison. Whoever wins three or more will be crowned our champion.
Though we’ve made it simple to browse winners at the end of each round, we urge you to read each section in its entirety. There are a lot of gray areas that come up when comparing providers, so going through the rounds will allow you to see our thoughts while arriving at your own conclusion.
Features make the difference when it comes to VPNs. There’s no shortage of providers that can get you connected to the internet securely, so each VPN’s offerings make them appealing to certain crowds.
In this section, we’re going to talk about the features ExpressVPN and PureVPN include with your subscription. Instead of focusing on the novelty of the features, though, we’re going to talk about how useful they are to the average user.
On the surface, ExpressVPN doesn’t have a lot of features. The ready-to-go mentality of the software is only concerned with getting you connected and, because of that, there aren’t many tools to tinker with. If that’s something you’re interested in, read our CyberGhost review.
Instead of adding goodies, ExpressVPN covers what we consider the essential and useful features VPNs should have. That includes a killswitch, which, if you’re unaware, stops internet traffic in the rare event the VPN fails. That said, there are no special rules you can apply to the killswitch, such as setting it to only block applications. It simply works across your connection.
Though we consider a speed test essential and useful, not many VPNs include one. The few that do don’t handle it with as much grace as ExpressVPN. Its speed test lets you gauge the speed of as many servers as you want at once. Compared to Buffered VPN, which forces you to test speeds with a single server at a time, there’s no contest (read our Buffered VPN review).
Our favorite feature, and one that’s underserved in the VPN market, is split tunneling. It allows you to send some data through the VPN tunnel and other data through your normal internet connection. Though any VPN can be set up to do so, ExpressVPN is among the few that let you do it in-application.
Those are the big ones for the desktop application, but there’s a browser extension that adds a few features. Installing the extension on Chrome, Firefox or Safari will allow you to stop HTML5 geolocation, disable WebRTC and automatically connect to websites using HTTPS when available.
PureVPN can have a lot of features depending on how deep your pockets are. The basic package is, well, basic, with the more unusual features tucked behind paywalls. Our review will be helpful if you want to see all the bells and whistles PureVPN has. For the purposes of this comparison, though, we’re going to provide an overview.
PureVPN accounts for the basics, including a killswitch and support for split tunneling in the application. It doesn’t offer a speed test, which is disappointing compared to ExpressVPN. Given the larger market, though, we’ve learned not to expect a speed test.
As for paid extras, PureVPN offers port forwarding, dedicated IP addresses (with or without Distributed Denial-of-Service protection), enterprise-grade security and peer-to-peer protection. Though the first two are standard features for VPNs, “enterprise-grade security” and “P2P protection” sound like scams for unassuming buyers more than anything.
During our review, we asked support what those add-ons do and no rep could provide a definitive answer beyond “extra security.” The fact is that PureVPN is trying to tack a couple of extra bucks onto subscription for those who don’t understand how VPNs work. If that’s not the case, and it seems it is, then PureVPN should educate its support reps on the products it’s selling.
Though you should avoid the extras at checkout, there are a few goodies in the base application. One of the more unusual features is mobile hotspot functionality. In a pinch, you can extend the functionality of PureVPN to others near you to bypass the dangers of public WiFi. It’s not always useful, but it’s surprising that more VPNs haven’t included the functionality yet.
An antivirus, which looks like a joke compared to the best antivirus software, is also included. It protects against some threats, but not enough to be called an antivirus. “Ozone,” as PureVPN calls it, is a cute addition but nothing that should sell you on the software.
Round 1 Thoughts
PureVPN has more features than ExpressVPN, but that doesn’t mean it’s the automatic winner for this round. Though the WiFi hotspot is a novel idea, the antivirus doesn’t do much, so it’s a non-feature more than anything.
The providers are equal when it comes to split tunneling and a killswitch, but ExpressVPN pulls ahead with its speed test. Though ExpressVPN doesn’t offer anything exciting, its feature set feels well-rounded. Plus, it doesn’t try to scam unsuspecting victims at checkout like PureVPN does.
Judging by price, ExpressVPN is at a disadvantage in this round. We’ve groaned about its high monthly price and subpar discount on annual plans before. Compared to PureVPN’s bargain-bin prices on multi-year contracts, ExpressVPN looks like the clear loser from the onset.
Price isn’t the only thing we’re factoring in to this round, though. In addition to the value each provider offers, we’re looking at the number of simultaneous connections you get, the payment methods accepted and the refund period.
It’s easy to dog on ExpressVPN. The monthly rate is bad, as is the case with most VPN providers, but it’s not much more than other top-shelf offerings. For example, NordVPN is a dollar cheaper month-to-month (read our NordVPN review). Compared to overpriced providers — read our Hide.me review to see an example — ExpressVPN isn’t that bad.
6-months plan $ 9.99 / month
$59.95 billed every 6 month
Save 23 %
15-months plan $ 6.66 / month
$99.95 billed first 15 months
and 12 months thereafter
Save 49 %
ExpressVPN’s weakness is not a poor monthly rate but a low discount on annual plans. $100 buys you a year’s worth of service — 15 months when you first sign up using our link — which is more expensive than most leading VPNs. For instance, VyprVPN is half the price for a year-long subscription (read our VyprVPN review).
Plus, ExpressVPN doesn’t offer multi-year subscriptions. Though a lot of providers top out at a year, some VPNs offer more. NordVPN goes up to three years and Private Internet Access goes up to two years (read our PIA review). ExpressVPN’s competitor in this comparison goes even longer.
The problem isn’t that you can’t stay subscribed to ExpressVPN for a long time but that there’s little incentive to do so. Two, three and even five-year plans from other VPNs come with significant discounts and incentivize the buyer to stay loyal for longer periods.
ExpressVPN’s connection limit isn’t great, either. It only offers three simultaneous connections, which is around two less than most leading VPNs. You can install it on a router, though, so there are ways to get around the limit, but the fact remains that ExpressVPN is behind in that regard.
The payment options are fine. ExpressVPN accepts bitcoin, PayPal, major credit cards and a host of regional payment methods. It doesn’t accept cash like Mullvad does, but, as you can read in our Mullvad review, few providers do. We’re content overall, though.
ExpressVPN’s lackluster price is made up for by its generous money-back guarantee. It gives you 30 days to try the service without risking a dime. While testing it, we’ve asked for a refund multiple times and always received it without issue.
PureVPN isn’t impressive on its monthly or annual plans. $11 month-to-month or $50 a year is cheaper than other top-tier providers but around what we’d expect from a middle-of-the-road option. That said, its multi-year plans are a force to be reckoned with.
1-year plan $ 4.15 / month
$49.80 billed every year
Save 62 %
2-year plan $ 2.49 / month
$59.76 billed every 2 years
Save 77 %
2-year plan $ 1.65 / month
$99.00 5 years
Save 85 %
As advertised, you can pay monthly, annually or biennially. Though those are the official plans offered, PureVPN also has a recurring pop-up that offers you five years of service for only $100. When divided by the number of months, that brings the rate down to less than $2.
It comes up so often that we included it in our review and see no reason not to mention it here. The five-year plan is a lifetime offer, meaning you’ll renew at the same price you bought in at. The best web hosting providers could learn from PureVPN when it comes to renewal rates.
Everything here should be taken a grain of salt, though. If you know a thing or two about VPNs, PureVPN offers an excellent value, but those unassuming buyers we mentioned in the first round will end up spending a lot more during checkout.
PureVPN doesn’t maliciously check boxes when you go to checkout, but the phrasing suggests that you need the add-ons for optimal protection. For example, those interested in torrenting will be told to purchase P2P protection despite the fact that support agents can’t clarify what the extra $2 a month buys you.
That questionable business practice looks even shadier with PureVPN’s money-back guarantee. It offers 31 days to get your money back, and though we were refunded the last time we tested the service, that hasn’t always been the case.
In our experience and from other customers’ reports, we know that PureVPN has not always honored its money-back guarantee. Plus, the guarantee says you’ll be refunded “no questions asked,” but the last time we tested the service, we were asked why we decided to leave when we requested a refund.
The payment options are mostly the same as ExpressVPN’s, with PureVPN accepting PayPal, cryptocurrency, Paymentwall and most major credit cards. It also accepts some gift cards as payment, but those, as well as CoinPayments, are non-refundable.
Round 2 Thoughts
This round is tricky. It seems like ExpressVPN has better ethics when it comes to payment, but its price is much higher than PureVPN’s. On the other hand, you can save a few bones with PureVPN, but you’ll have to contend with a questionable refund policy.
Based on the last time we tested PureVPN, we’re going to have to give it the win. Though it may have had missteps in the past, we were pleasantly surprised with the price and refund time the last time around.
Ease of Use
Some VPNs are notoriously difficult to use — read our AirVPN review for an example — so the importance of user-friendliness shouldn’t be undervalued. In this section, we’re going to judge ExpressVPN and PureVPN from sign-up to connection, exposing how simple they make it to be secure.
ExpressVPN exemplifies ease of use. During sign-up, it asks for your email address and payment method. After that, you’re off to the races. Instead of making you verify your email address and create an account, ExpressVPN directs you to the account dashboard after payment. There, you’ll find a link to the installer and an activation code.
Make no mistake, you’ll still create a username and password, but you’ll only need to recall that information when logging in to the account dashboard. Unlike most VPNs, ExpressVPN doesn’t require your login credentials in the application. You’ll use the activation code for that.
The activation code provides the security of user authentication without the annoying hurdle of logging in each time you open the application. Once you enter the activation code, ExpressVPN authenticates your device, so you’ll always be good to go.
In the app, ExpressVPN leaves no room for doubt. The app is comprised of a large “on” button and a location button, and ExpressVPN makes it clear which to press to get connected. By default, it will use a “smart” location to connect, so if that’s all your concerned with, simply click the “on” switch. The shield behind the button will glow green to show that you’re secure.
If you’d rather choose a location yourself, ExpressVPN makes that simple. It breaks out locations by region and country in drop down menu, so you don’t need to scroll through a massive list. Alternatively, you can search or favorite locations for faster access.
Even in the settings, ExpressVPN’s streamlined mentality is on display. Everything about the service is centered around getting you connected, making it an ideal choice for convenient security. Though it doesn’t have the configurability of, say, TorGuard (read our TorGuard review), ExpressVPN trades a little bit of power for a lot of usability.
Signing up for PureVPN is just as simple, but everything else feels needlessly complex. You’ll choose a plan, enter your name and email address, select a plan and check out. After that, things aren’t as smooth.
A progress bar will show as PureVPN sends you confirmation, installs the app, etc. There’s some confusion, though. PureVPN requires two keys: one for the app and another for the website. It sends you the key for the app in an email, but the website key isn’t made clear. During our review, we had to request a password reset.
PureVPN’s app has the annoying design that CyberGhost used to have. You’re presented with multiple modes. For example, you can use the VPN for streaming or security and privacy. Those modes don’t make sense, and though they may appeal to those unfamiliar with VPNs, ExpressVPN’s streamlined design feels better.
As noted in our review, the interface doesn’t look better from there. The window isn’t resizable, the client is too dark to decipher and the text is difficult to read. It doesn’t automatically suggest a server, either, so you’re forced to go about it the old-fashioned way.
You can filter locations by country or city and there’s a search bar if you’re looking for a particular server. It’s not the worst server navigation we’ve seen — read our Ivacy review for an example of annoying server navigation — but PureVPN could improve. In most cases, you’re left scrolling.
After connecting, you can head to the dashboard of the app. Though showing your connected location is helpful, PureVPN also lists things that are enabled or optimized. Saying your internet speed is optimized and private browsing is enabled is a level of pandering we’re not comfortable with.
That technophobe-focused mindset carries over from the add-ons during checkout to the dashboard to the settings. Instead of minimizing the settings for user-friendliness, PureVPN gives you control over almost everything and explains the settings using the same non-techie jargon.
The best word to describe PureVPN is “unbalanced.” It uses modes to attempt easing use but adds unnecessary confusion instead. Cutting back on the pandering and streamlining the interface would make it easier to access.
Round 3 Thoughts
ExpressVPN understands something about ease of use that PureVPN doesn’t. PureVPN appears to be so scared of someone misusing its service that it doesn’t trust common sense. Instead of setting up a controlled area, it adds unnecessary hurdles to the connection process and confuses the overall experience.
On the other hand, ExpressVPN gives you a sandbox and asks you to play. The experience is streamlined and fluid, without giving you the idea that choosing a different mode or ignoring a feature will somehow break the app. PureVPN makes a valiant effort, but ExpressVPN is much better when it comes to ease of use.
VPNs will take some of your speed away, unless you’re experiencing internet service provider throttling. Minimizing the difference is important. Using the tests we ran for our reviews, we’re going to compare ExpressVPN and PureVPN when it comes to speed.
We’ll break it early: ExpressVPN is the fastest VPN we’ve tested. When tunneling close to home, it provides almost the same as unprotected speeds, but it’s rare in that it can stay fast over long distances. Even when virtually traveling across the globe, it keeps the speed fast enough that we didn’t even notice we were using a VPN.
|Location:||Ping (ms)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)|
|Smart location-Kansas City||44||105.49||7.94|
Its speed is a big reason why we rank it as the best VPN for streaming. It also took first place in our best VPN for Netflix and best VPN for BBC iPlayer guides, not only because it accessed those platforms, but because it did so quickly and without connection issues.
As you can see in the table above, ExpressVPN has a narrow spread when it comes to download speed. Outside of the expected initial drop, it has a tight grouping, varying by, at most, 20 megabits per second.
The latency is also worth noting. ExpressVPN kept our ping below 300 milliseconds, which is why it ranked first in our best VPN for gaming guide. Latency is an unavoidable issue, but our results show that ExpressVPN has optimized its network for multiple purposes, including gaming.
PureVPN isn’t as impressive. Like ExpressVPN, we tested speeds by first noting our unprotected rate for ping, download and upload, then comparing them to five servers in the network. Our tests avoided virtual servers, too, so we could achieve a more direct comparison.
|Locations:||Ping (ms):||Download (Mbps):||Upload (Mbps):|
|New York City||234||16.38||1.25|
|Los Angeles, CA||363||17.19||1.07|
Though PureVPN has improved over the past few years, its speeds are nowhere near ExpressVPN’s — or any of our fastest VPN picks, for that matter. The server in the Netherlands produced impressive results, but everywhere else is a point of concern.
Japan and the U.S. have surprisingly similar download speeds, despite the latency being all over the place. The server we tested in Albania was virtually unusable, getting just above 10 percent of our unprotected speed.
Unlike other VPNs we dog on, PureVPN isn’t inconsistent. It’s just slow.
Round 4 Thoughts
Because it’s our pick for the fastest VPN on the market, it should come as little surprise that ExpressVPN wins this round. Not only did it win, it won by a significant margin. PureVPN’s speed results ranged from mediocre to bad, and that shouldn’t be in the conversation compared to ExpressVPN.
Security & Privacy
Though ExpressVPN is already the winner of this comparison, we’re still going to talk about security. We’ll discuss the encryption, protocol options and privacy policies of PureVPN and ExpressVPN in this round.
Simply put, ExpressVPN is the gold standard when it comes to security and privacy. Your connection is secured with AES 256-bit on the OpenVPN protocol, which is the combination we always look for, as you can see in our VPN protocol breakdown.
There are other protocol options if you want to change aspects of the VPN security. In addition to OpenVPN, ExpressVPN supports SSTP, L2TP and PPTP, though you should stick with OpenVPN in almost every circumstance. As ExpressVPN warns in the application, L2TP and PPTP have “weak security.”
ExpressVPN’s privacy is excellent. It’s a no-logs provider, meaning nothing is stored or monitored, not even temporarily. Plus, it’s located in the British Virgin Islands, which has some of the best privacy laws in the world, so you’re protected from government strong-arming.
ExpressVPN sums it up nicely: “We may know that a customer has used ExpressVPN, but we never know how they have utilized our service.”
PureVPN isn’t as respectful. Despite having multiple protocols — OpenVPN, PPTP, SSTP, L2TP and IKEv2 — it defaults to using IKEv2, which is strange for a desktop application. The only other VPN that does that is CyberGhost, which, as we noted above, isn’t the only similarity they share.
What’s worse is that PureVPN calls it “IKEV” in the application. We’re not tech overlords or anything, but the “v” in IKEv2 stands for version. It’s the second version of the IKE protocol. Why PureVPN decided to have its acronym in the application read “internet key exchange version” is beyond us.
It’s not like that changes anything about security, but it raises questions, such as who’s writing the app and why are they unaware that the “v” in IKEv2 stands for version.
PureVPN’s privacy isn’t any better. Though it claims to not keep logs, questionable actions in the past suggest otherwise.
Though we’re not defending cyberstalking, PureVPN’s ethics have to be called into question. Much the same as IPVanish (read our IPVanish review), PureVPN is lying or was lying about its data collection practices. Now that the dust has settled, all you have to go on is “we’ll do better.”
Round 5 Thoughts
Between PureVPN using IKEv2 as the default protocol and questionable privacy actions, there’s a clear winner here. While ExpressVPN was already in the lead, it pulls further ahead in this final, and important, round.
It should come as little surprise that ExpressVPN is the definitive winner of this comparison. It didn’t win by a thin margin, either. While PureVPN took the pricing round, bargain pricing isn’t nearly as important as features, ease of use, speed or security.
PureVPN has unusual features and we can admire the effort, but there’s too much wrong with the service to ignore. Between dodgy privacy practices in the past, features that are marketing bullet points more than anything and an infuriating disrespect for the user, PureVPN is worse in almost every way.
Do you agree that ExpressVPN is the better choice? Let us know why or why not in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.