PureVPN Review (2019): Strong Showing but Strong Enough?

PureVPN is one of the well-known VPN giants out there. Established in 2006 in Hong Kong, it’s grown to offer thousands of servers and an almost overwhelming number of features. But does it live up to the hype and is it good value for money? We put it to the test.

PROS

  • Record server numbers
  • 6 connections allowed
  • 2 kill switches
  • Specialist servers
  • Some very cheap prices

CONS

  • Slightly faster speeds
  • 94 countries
  • Record Netflix access
  • Full access torrenting
  • Easy-to-use app

Speed & Expectations

The number one question on most people’s minds when choosing a VPN is how fast is it? All that extra security tends to slow your speed down, sometimes by epic proportions.

Speed is complicated and so comprehensive tests usually measure speed metrics:

  1. Download speed: The rate at which data is transferred from the server to your device. This is measured in megabytes per second (mbps) and a higher number is better.

  2. Upload speed: The rate at which data is transferred to the server from your device. This is also measured in megabytes per second (mbps) and a higher number is better.

  3. Ping (or latency): Tested by “pinging” the server, it’s the amount of time it takes for it to receive and process your request. This is measured in milliseconds (ms) and a lower number is better.

First we performed a baseline test, without the VPN. For this we used a 100mbps internet connection in Chicago, IL.

Then we ran tests using PureVPN servers across the main continents. We also performed each test 5 times to increase reliability.

PureVPN speed test results

These are the results of our baseline test:

So the average baseline score was:

  • Download: 80mbps
  • Upload: 10mbps
  • Ping: 14.8ms

Next we ran our tests on a PureVPN United States server:

US averages of the 5 different speed tests were:

  • Download: 59.1mbps (26.1% slower)
  • Upload: 11.4mbps (13% faster)
  • Ping: 11.4ms (23% faster)

(You would expect these speeds to be the fastest since this is the closest server location to us).

Next we tested Europe:

Europe’s averages were:

  • Download: 25.3mbps (68.4% slower)
  • Upload: 10.4mbps (2.5% faster)
  • Ping: 119.6ms (708.1% longer)

Here’s Asia:

Asia’s averages were:

  • Download: 5.1mbps (93.6% slower)
  • Upload: 4.7mbps (53.8% slower)
  • Ping: 87.2ms (489.2% longer)

Next, South America:

South America’s averages were:

  • Download: 54.6mbps (31.8% slower)
  • Upload: 9mbps (10.8% slower)
  • Ping: 165.4ms (1017.6% longer)

Finally, we tested Africa:

Africa’s averages were:

  • Download: 9.2mbps (88.5% slower)
  • Upload: 2.9mbps (71.8% slower)
  • Ping: 284.6ms (1823% longer)

For context, let’s compare PureVPN to others we’ve previously tested.

First up, let’s take a look at download speeds:

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
PureVPN-26%-68%-94%-32%-89%
Trust.Zone-14%-99%-80%-66%-82%
AVG Secure VPN-56%-87%-69%-75%-68%
Hoxx VPN-12%-96%-93%n/a-68%
VPNSecure-68%-93%-98%-61%-77%
IPVanish-36%-54%-72%-76%n/a
NordVPN-40%-99%-69%-58%-75%
ExpressVPN-71%-58%-64%-95%-67%
Avast-45%-63%-72%-66%-77%
Windscribe-44%-57%-80%-98%-73%
Average-41.2%-77.4%-79.1%-69.7%-75.1%

Download speeds are way above average for the US and South America, above average for Europe, but below average for Asia and Africa.

Next, how did upload speeds compare?

VPNUSEuropeAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
PureVPN13%2.5%-54%-11%-72%
Trust.Zone-13%-45%-67%-28%-84%
AVG Secure VPN-19%-58%-75%-80%-77%
Hoxx VPN-5%-90%-24%n/a-51%
VPNSecure-9%-19%-92%-26%-56%
IPVanish-5%-19%-84%-22%n/a
NordVPN-13%-46%-26%-16%-70%
ExpressVPN-9%-24%-34%-72%-42%
Avast-13%-42%-78%-70%-77%
Windscribe-6%-17%-52%-97%-53%
Average-7.9%-35.8%-58.6%-46.9%-64.7%

Upload speeds were actually faster than the baseline for both the US and Europe, a very rare occurrence. South America was well above average, Asia was just above average, but Africa was below average.

And finally latency:

VPNUSEUAsiaS.AmericaAfrica
PureVPN-23%708%489%1018%1823%
Trust.Zone104%1206%2438%1396%2750%
AVG Secure VPN1021%1111%2419%3560%3336%
Hoxx VPN566%1098%2470%n/a2794%
VPNSecure281%1051%2519%1530%2917%
IPVanish240%1038%4144%1424%n/a
NordVPN34%1278%2328%1560%2696%
ExpressVPN98%965%2122%1545%2461%
Avast33%1133%2465%1556%2815%
Windscribe310%1018%1904%2042%2782%
Average266.4%1060.6%2329.8%1736.8%2708.2%

Again latency was actually faster than the baseline for the US server. Latency also scored the top result across all other regions.

Speed (Summary)

PureVPN has extremely fast speeds overall, beating other giants like ExpressVPN by a mile, and in a few cases it was actually faster than our default connection.

Performance & Features

PureVPN has a whole host of features. Here we compare the most basic features amongst VPNs, so let’s see how PureVPN matches up.

Number of servers: 2000+

How many active servers are available to connect to across all countries, regardless of their physical location.

This is definitely on the top end of the scale and leaves users spoilt for choice. Server loads should also be low. However, a few other VPNs do top it, such as NordVPN’s 5,082.

Number of countries: numbers: 140+

How many countries the total number of servers cover, regardless of how many are located in a single country.

This is where PureVPN really stands out, offering a staggering 140+ countries. This range is really outstanding as most VPNs offer less than 100. For example, NordVPN only offers 62.

Number of connections allowed: 5

How many devices can be connected to a server (or number of servers) based on a single VPN account or subscription.

This is average across VPNs and should be enough for most individuals to connect all their personal devices. Some offer more, such as IPVanish’s 10, if you need it. A few also offer unlimited connections.

Torrenting allowed: 83 countries.

PureVPN allows torrenting in 83 countries, but be aware these don’t include some popular Western countries such as the US, UK, Canada, Australia, etc, where it says file sharing is illegal.

It’s a shame PureVPN doesn’t allow full torrenting access, as many do, such as ExpressVPN.

Kill switch available: Yes.

Whether the VPN software can disable your connection to the network in the event you disconnect from the VPN server. This prevents your IP address from being exposed.

PureVPN offers kill switches on Windows, Mac and Android platforms. This is excellent as lot of VPNs that advertise kill switches only actually include Windows. A shame for iPhone users, though.

Performance and Features (Summary)

PureVPN is bursting with features, with a whopping 2,000 servers in 140+ countries. The number of countries in particular outstrips most VPNs. It has kill switches on multiple platforms and an average 5 connections. The only disappointment is the lack of full torrenting access.

PureVPN Privacy & Security

In section we perform various tests and checks to see how private and secure PureVPN really is.

First let’s look at the technical aspects:

Protocols/Encryption: AES-256 encryption with PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, OpenVPN, IKEv2 and IPSec protocols

These are the methods by which the VPN encrypts and tunnels your data.

PureVPN doesn’t disappoint here. It uses industry-standard AES-256 encryption, which is amongst the top ciphers.

For protocols it offers the entire toolbox, from OpenVPN to PPTP and also IPSec for Mac and iOS.

Most VPNs stick to one or two protocols, usually OpenVPN or IKEv2, leaving you little choice, but here you get full flexibility, which advanced users will appreciate.

Leaks

Next we test for leaks and viruses. A leak means your IP address is accidentally being revealed through various technical glitches.

DNS leaks: None found.

IP leaks: None found.

WebRTC leaks: None.

Viruses/Malware: None found.

Happily PureVPN came up completely clean; no leaks, viruses or malware.

Legal issues

Jurisdiction: Hong Kong. Hong Kong isn’t part of 14-eyes, and it also tends to take data privacy seriously; Hong Kong was the first Asian jurisdiction to come up with data privacy legislation and doesn’t have mandatory data retention laws. However, its links to and tensions with China may put some people off.

Logging policy: Some logs.

PureVPN’s logging policy has a complicated history.

PureVPN used to claim a no logging policy, but in 2017 it emerged that PureVPN provided logs to the FBI which helped catch a cyberstalker.

This is because although they didn’t log browsing history, they logged users IP address and timestamps, which the FBI then ‘matched’ with data from other sources to identify the cyberstalker.

They did offer a detailed explanation, but by comparison other VPNs have been asked for information but couldn’t provide anything helpful as they didn’t log anything, such as PIA.

However, PureVPN’s privacy policy was updated in 2018. It’s much improved and it now states they don’t log your IP address.

The only thing they seem to log is “the day you connected to a specific VPN location and from which Internet Service Provider”, as well as total bandwidth.

I really liked the level of detail in their privacy policy, as a lot of companies avoid this.

However some users will be put off by the past scandal. I personally think PureVPN would benefit from going that little bit further to reassure users, for example through an independent audit or transparency reports, as other VPNs have done.

One thing to mention is that if you use their Gravity service, this logs your IP, so I would not recommend using this. However, this is now a beta feature so you won’t be using it by default.

Privacy and Security Summary for PureVPN

PureVPN has great security technically, with top-notch encryption, many protocol options, and no leaks or viruses. It’s also located in Hong Kong, which is outside 14-eyes though some may be concerned over its links to China.

It used to record users IP address and timestamps and did provide this to the FBI in 2017, but it’s privacy policy was updated in 2018 and is much improved.

Usability

This section looks at the following aspects:

  • Streaming/Geo-spoofing
  • Compatibility
  • Overall UI/UX

Streaming/Geo-spoofing

Streaming is a major issue for VPNs as they battle against Netflix and others increasing VPN-detecting capabilities.

So does PureVPN successfully get past these blocks?

We tested it against all major streaming services in the US, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America.

  • Netflix: Partially detected. Netflix worked on normal US and UK servers. PureVPN has a special Netflix US server but the resolution was ironically lower quality than the normal US server. No other countries worked. Support recommends the Chrome extension for other countries, but this didn’t work for us.
  • Hulu: Undetected. Again a normal US server worked, and the special Hulu server worked but was slightly blurry.
  • YouTube: Undetected. YouTube worked fine on all servers.
  • Kodi: Undetected. Kodi also worked with PureVPN.

PureVPN Compatibility

Here we look at what platforms and devices PureVPN is compatible with.

We tested everything from Tor, iOS devices, Android devices, Smart TV’s, Amazon Firestick, Mac, Windows, to routers:

  • Tor browser: Supported. You can use Tor with PureVPN, providing maximum security but lower speeds.
  • iOS (iPad, iPhone): Supported. PureVPN supports all iOS devices.
  • Android: Supported. PureVPN also has an Android app.
  • Smart TV’s: Partially Supported. PureVPN has apps for Android TVs. It doesn’t support other Smart TVs (no VPN can yet), but it offers many workarounds, the easiest of which is using the VPN Hotspot, a feature not many VPNs offer.
  • Amazon Firestick: Supported. PureVPN also has an app for Firesticks, very rare in the VPN world.

  • Windows: Supported.
  • Mac: Supported.
  • Routers: Supported. PureVPN offers great router support. It works with routers with OpenVPN/PPTP, or TomatoUSB and DD-WRT routers. It even has a DD-WRT applet.

Overall UX/UI

Is PureVPN easy to use? We looked at desktop, mobile and browser extensions.

Windows client

PureVPN’s interface is certainly different to most. This is the main screen.

Whilst most VPNs aim for a minimalistic UI, PureVPN goes the opposite way in order to give a feature-packed impression.

However, this makes for a frustrating user experience.

Just look how cluttered their main screen is.

First you have to choose a ‘mode’, depending on your purpose, which gets irksome after a while.

Also, the difference between ‘Internet Freedom’ and ‘Security/Privacy’ is not explained. Even their support article doesn’t help much.

Once your mode is chosen, you get taken to a server list.

Countries are listed in order of lowest latency.

There’s not many sorting options so it relies heavily on the search field. Unfortunately this is full of niggles, including a major lag.

As mentioned you can’t actually choose specific servers either, only countries or cities.

It’s easy to select favorites.

Once connected, it displays an ‘info’ panel showing server location and time connected, as well as a lot of useless information.

You also have to disconnect to change servers which is annoying.

It’s especially frustrating if you have the kill-switch on as you always get this pop-up.

Also, you can click ‘Change Mode’ on the left, but you can’t actually change your mode until you’ve disconnected.

You have to go back to the previous screen to do this.

This gives the impression that the UX wasn’t very well-thought out.

Streaming mode has special streaming servers, such as Netflix US.

It also opens Netflix in your browser, a nice touch.

File-sharing mode only shows P2P servers.

Settings are confusingly spread out over several tabs on the left on the main screen.

However, there’s certainly a lot available.

Auto-connect, startup and protocol options are under ‘App Settings’.

There’s nice speed and security indicators to help beginners choose their protocol.

But for auto-connect, I’m surprised you can’t connect to a specific server.

Under ‘Network Type’ you can choose a NAT network, a feature not normally offered by VPNs.

Under ‘Advanced Settings’ you can activate your kill switch, IPv6 leak protection, and change your port.

There’s also VPN Hotspot, a truly excellent feature where you can transform your device into a virtual router.

Not many VPNs offer this so this is a real gem.

You can also check for updates, fill in a support ticket and access some FAQ.

Overall the PureVPN Windows client seemed power-intensive and was slow with delays between clicks.

Connection times were also a bit slow, with occasional dropouts.

Next, let’s take a look at the mobile app (we tested Android).

Mobile app

The modes were still in place, but once selected the UI is a lot simpler and easier to navigate.

There’s just 3 tabs.

The first is a Quick Connect tab, where you can connect to a server with one-click.

This also shows your connection status. It changes (rather unintuitively) to red once connected. To disconnect just tap the circle.

The other two tabs show the server list, either by country or city. These are sorted alphabetically.

There’s no sorting options, but the search field works perfectly with no lag.

You can also change servers without disconnecting first.

Settings are accessed by the hamburger icon in the top left. They’re all grouped under one heading.

The settings are mostly the same as the desktop version. This is very unusual, as mobile apps are usually much more stripped down.

Protocols are limited to OpenVPN UDP/TCP or IKEV only.

But there’s the addition of a split-tunnelling feature.

One minor annoyance is that you’re often asked to disconnect from all servers before changing these settings.

Overall, the app didn’t seem power-intensive and was much faster with no loading between clicks.

Browser extension

Finally, we looked at the Chrome extension. This is just a proxy, not a full VPN, so we wouldn’t really recommend using it.

It’s easy to use, though very stripped down.

There’s no modes, and you can only see countries, not cities, and a list of their streaming servers.

Oddly, only 27 countries are available, a fraction of PureVPN’s usual 140.

However there’s more streaming servers available, including Netflix UK.

In terms of settings, the only setting available is WebRTC leak protection.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t get our internet to work on a single server on the Chrome extension. It said it was connected on the interface, but no page actually loaded.

Usability (Summary)

PureVPN can access Netflix US and UK, as well as Hulu, which is a pretty great result, though not outstanding. It’s compatibility is off the charts, supporting everything from routers to Firesticks. UX is mixed, with a clunky, slow Windows app and easy-to-use Android app, both feature-packed. The Chrome extension didn’t work for us.

Pricing & Refunds

PureVPN offers 1 month, 3 month and 1 year pricing options.

Ignoring the temporary sale price, the usual 1 year price is $5.83.

The prices are generally slightly above average. Unfortunately they don’t offer a 2 year option for deeper discounts.

You can also buy dedicated IPs or port forwarding as extras.

For desktops they have a stingy 3-day trial that you have to pay $2.50 for, but they also have a very generous 31-day money-back guarantee.

But be aware for those who purchase from the Google Play or Apple Store, there’s no guarantee or refunds, however there is a 7-day free trial.

Refund take up to 30 days.

PureVPN has one of the largest number of payment options I’ve seen, everything from Alipay to gift cards.

This includes an extraordinary number of cryptocurrencies (a lot of other VPNs only offer Bitcoin).

However, most will be actually dissuaded from using crypto as it’s non-refundable. Very disappointing.

The payment process is fairly smooth, the only annoying thing is they email you a very long auto-generated username and password that is a pain to use.

Pricing (Summary)

PureVPN’s prices are slightly above average, with a 1 month, 3 month and 1 year option. Desktops have a 31-day money-back guarantee, and Google Play and Apple store users get a 7-day free trial. Payment options are extremely varied, but crypto is shockingly non-refundable.

Support

PureVPN has 24/7 live chat support, which is pretty much the top level of support VPNs tend to offer.

My queries were always answered within a minute or two.

Most answered my questions easily.

A lot of them didn’t have perfect English, and some started by pasted standard answers, but they did answer your question the second time around.

I only had one particularly frustrating conversation, where I asked them the difference between two similar Modes on the app.

They kept giving me nonsense replies until I downvoted them and explained I needed the answer for a review. They then gave me the answer and asked me to undo my downvote.

So don’t underestimate the power of the downvote if you’re having trouble.

But mostly I would say they were good. They also helped remotely with technical issues using Teamviewer.

They also offer email support and Facebook support.

Their knowledgebase is extremely extensive, one of the most extensive I’ve seen. To give you some of an idea, there’s 15 articles alone on how to watch FIFA 2018 on various platforms.

There’s also every kind of setup guide you can think of.

It’s also well-organised into categories, with a good search facility.

What I love about the online support is the interactivity of it.

As soon as you download PureVPN, it walks you through a welcome process.

It points you to setup guides immediately, and asks if you have successfully connected to the VPN. If not, it directs you to the live chat.

It also gives you a quick welcome guide with tips on how to use the VPN, streaming services you can access, etc.

Every VPN should do this.

Even the Troubleshooting area of their knowledgebase is an interactive quiz.

You can also comment on the articles, which is very transparent on behalf of PureVPN, and staff sometimes respond.

The only downside to the knowledgebase is again the occasional poor English.

There’s also a blog, which has a search function and important company news smattered amongst the many general info articles.

Support (Summary)

PureVPN has 24/7 live chat support, which is generally OK. It also offers email and Facebook support. Its knowledgebase is extremely extensive, well-organised and interactive.

What Do Other Reviewers Say?

That’s our overall opinion of PureVPN, but what do other reviewers think of the VPN? We summarize other reputable online reviews in this section.

All of them agreed that PureVPN had a great server selection, as well as an impressive number of advanced and powerful features. However, a couple said that the features didn’t work as expected all the time.

They also agreed it worked on multiple platforms, with a great number of apps and setup guides.

Most reported that it unblocked US Netflix, although one said it couldn’t get Netflix to work anywhere in their testing.

A few reported torrenting on all or most servers, which is not the case now. Most that were up-to-date bemoaned the lack of access to servers in places like the US.

In terms of technical security most praised the top-level encryption and a wide protocol selection. A couple said that it didn’t offer OpenVPN, which is outdated information. However, unlike us one reported multiple IP and DNS leaks in their testing.

Speed results were completely mixed, although some only measured download speeds. A few reported some connection issues.

As far as support goes, though they liked the 24/7 live chat they thought the staff weren’t great or were poor, especially for technical queries. One said that the email support staff were much better than the live chat staff, which wasn’t our experience.

Most liked the comprehensive knowledgebase, although one reported that some of the manual setup guides in the knowledgebase didn’t work.

Unlike us some loved the interface on the Windows platform, particularly the modes. They thought the server list had plenty of functionality, and called the settings panel a highlight. However, one said they wanted a better explanation of the modes, and that the interface was inconsistent and messy.

In terms of logging, many were outdated as they said the log policy claimed ‘no logs’ but actually logged some things in the fine print. The reviews that were up-to-date said it was now better than most of the competition, but questioned whether people would trust it.

Finally, in terms of price, generally they agreed the monthly price was average but the yearly price was cheap.

Most agreed it was good value for money, rating it either excellent or good.

What Do Other Reviewers Say (Summary)

Reviewers generally liked PureVPN’s server selection, security, features, and most liked the Windows interface. They weren’t so impressed with torrenting or support. They praised the new logging policy but weren’t sure whether users would trust it. Overall most rated it excellent or good.

Our Verdict

PureVPN has a lot to offer. Aside from the huge server selection and excellent security, the speeds in particular really impressed us. Many VPNs claim to be ultra-fast but few actually deliver. The fact that some speeds were actually faster than our default connection is incredible.

On top of this it really goes above and beyond with a crazy number of features both on desktop and mobile, as well as apps for everything. And the VPN hotspot is a highlight, offering the chance to easily protect non-compatible devices like Smart TVs.

Considering all this, you’d expect to pay top dollar for this VPN. But it’s prices are only slightly above average.

However, there are a few downsides.

The desktop app is clunky. It’s far from unusable, but it was slow and could be much more streamlined. There was also the occasional dropout in connection.

It also doesn’t have full P2P access.

There’s 24/7 live chat but we did have some difficulties with support staff, although most were good and even helped us remotely using Teamviewer.

PureVPN’s updated logging policy is very good, but its logging history may be an issue for some.

Overall there’s little to really dislike about PureVPN, and it’s price is a bit of steal for what you’re getting in our opinion. We give PureVPN an overall rating of 4.7 out of 5 and we would recommend it.


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