VPN Review: PureVPN
PureVPN's name insinuates that other VPN providers (its competitors) have lost their way. The imagined argument likely continues, that the push for more features and extras has driven service providers away from their true purpose and essence. As with any movement that exists long enough, voices of dissent, calling for a 'return to the roots' have grown, and PureVPN claims to offer precisely that . Our test shows if PureVPN is a true 'reformer', or simply a charlatan looking to profit off of a niche market by advertising itself as something that it isn't.
What is PureVPN?
PureVPN is a Hong Kong-based VPN provider, active since 2007. In particular, Pure is known for its high server density: In contrast to most other VPNs, PureVPN caters to Asia, South America, and Africa, three regions that its competitors have all too often overlooked.
Pros and Cons
First class server infrastructure
Well-designed mobile apps
24/7 live chat
Desktop client desperately needs a makeover
Data privacy guidelines leave a lot of cause for concern
Installation and Features
Registering with PureVPN is a bit differently than other providers. After creating an account, you're sent a password and username, which you can then use to login to the various apps (Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, or Linux) and browser extensions. This has the advantage that a throwaway email address can be used to register. Further, you can set different passwords for your Pure account and individual VPN connections. Not having to use an email address to login only adds to your privacy, even though Pure's registration process is a bit more complicated than those of other providers.
The program's name suggests that it concentrates only on the essentials, however, Pure's desktop client is anything but: While other VPN providers only feature an on/off button in their client interfaces, Pure's makes all sorts of different modes available.
Depending on what you are using your VPN for, streaming or surfing with maximum security, you need to connect to different user profiles. Why individual profiles are necessary for this is not really made so clear: Other VPNs offer servers or categories of servers based on what the user intends to do. PureVPN does things a bit differently, unnecessarily complicating its user interface as a result.
Pure's dashboard, from which you establish your VPN connection looks the same regardless of the mode which you're using. When you click on the server location, which normally shows the quickest server available, a list of countries opens up. This shows all available locations, organized according to their ping quality. In addition, there is also a search function, and the option to mark favorites. In the parent menu, you can choose a VPN connection for a specific website, such as Netflix, or the BBC. Pure's streaming performance was good in our tests: (foreign) Netflix and the BBC iPlayer worked without issue.
Under "app settings" the standard options for auto-start, program language, and redialing are available. Here, you can also change the VPN protocol. Under "advanced settings" kill switch and multi-port options are available. Among these is the option to deactivate 256-bit encryption, which we strongly advise all readers against. Split tunneling, which allows you to to select which apps use the VPN connection you've established, is available in Pure's desktop version. So far, however, this is only available as a 'beta function', which can be toggled on or off depending on your preferences.
Despite its purist overtones, PureVPN's packages of features also includes extras, such as the possibility to purchase a personalized, fast, IP address.
The various user profiles are also available in the mobile version of PureVPN, however, in comparison to the desktop client, the app is streamlined, without being spartan. In part, this may be owing to the app's more straightforward design: In each user profile, you can establish an automatic VPN connection by clicking the central button, or select specific servers from the list of locations.
The most important settings, such as the kill switch and split tunneling, are available in the mobile version. As a beta tester, you can also use the Ozone and Gravity antivirus features, however, based on user feedback, these will not be part of the program for much longer.
We strongly urge PureVPN to overhaul its desktop client, in particular because the mobile app shows how the same functionality could be packaged more attractively and effectively. Apart from that largely cosmetic complaint though, we can't find much else to criticize.
Score: 4 / 5
PureVPN's server infrastructure is impressive: With more than 2,000 servers spread across 180 locations in 140 countries, Pure can go toe-to-toe with the industry's heavyweights. For most servers, particularly 'exotic' locations, like Niger, these are virtual. In PureVPN's defense, however, they mark these servers as such, and don't play any games with their server list.
It is refreshing for a VPN provider to focus its efforts outside of Europe and North America, catering to the areas overlooked by most of the industry, such as Asia and Africa. PureVPN's server network is simply exquisite.
Score: 4.7 / 5
The speed of all VPNs which we tested was evaluated using a server in Europe with a 1 GB/s connection. We tested random PureVPN servers at different times of the day to more accurately evaluate their performances. More information concerning our methodology can be found in our VPN speed test.
The table below shows the average results from the last 365 days, arranged in order of download and upload speed (descending):
When the test was conducted, PureVPN clocked a download speed of 126.9 MB/s and an upload speed of 14.6 MB/s, which was only good enough for the second-lowest place in our ranking, far off the top performers.
The diagram below shows PureVPN's average speeds over the past months.
Score: 2 / 5
Security and Privacy
PureVPN uses AES 256 to encrypt connections, which at present guarantees maximum security. The program offers a wide selection of VPN protocols, even including less-secure options such as PPTP. Of course, OpenVPN, the gold standard of protocols, is supported. Somewhat typically, for Windows IKEv comes pre-installed, whereas IPSec is automatically configured for Mac.
As long as you stick with the established protocols, and don't turn off the 256-bit encryption, network security when using PureVPN should not present any issues. The program passed our VPN leak tests for IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC without any difficulties.
In contrast, the provider's track record in terms of privacy is not good. In 2017, PureVPN was criticized by data privacy activists when it became known that the company cooperated with the FBI to nab a severe cyber-stalker. Undoubtedly, this cooperation was for a good cause, however, the case raised a lot of questions about how the FBI determined that the stalker was using PureVPN in the first place: The 'no logging' policy seems to not be without caveats.
Further, PureVPN is headquartered in Hong Kong, a territory with strict data privacy laws.
Score: 3 / 5
PureVPN has an extensive support center featuring a variety of guides and FAQs, which upon closer inspection are a bit thin. Foreign versions of the site appear to be very rough Google translations of the English pages, which just looks unprofessional. Investing in quality translations (by a person, and not a machine) would most likely help those users whose first language isn't English.
The service's 24/7 live chat is also available in English. Here, we're happy to report that our questions were promptly answered within a matter of seconds. For less-pressing, or more complicated issues, support tickets can be filed, which are answered by email. Since chat team members are unable to always answer technically-demanding questions, this is important. You can also file the ticket directly through the app. Answers are sent to the email linked with your account. During testing, we waited around 3 hours for a response.
Score: 4.3 / 5
PureVPN is one of the most affordable VPN providers that we tested. As usual, the subscription declines in price as the contract's length increases. In particular, the 12 month package is very reasonably priced. The table below shows the current prices:
|2 years||1 year||1 Month|
|Price per month||$3.33||$5.83||$10.95|
|Contract period (months)||24||12||1|
|Number of devices||5||5||5|
|Number of servers||2,000||2,000||2,000|
|Number of countries||141||141||141|
Alongside PayPal and credit cards, AliPay, CoinPayments, and even a variety of different coupons and vouchers can be used to pay. For all those who want to protect their accounts, even in terms of payment method, PureVPN really rolls out the red carpet.
PureVPN seems to be its own worst enemy. Its data protection guidelines could be made clearer, and its no logging promises aren't really worth the paper they're written (or typed) on, after the company bent them to accommodate the FBI (albeit for a good reason). The desktop app is cluttered, contradicting the product's very name, and its speeds were the second worst among the VPNs that we examined. In terms of features, price, server infrastructure, and performance, PureVPN is not great, but decent.
Whether PureVPN will be able to win back the trust of data privacy activists is unclear. Apart from the privacy missteps we've mentioned above, and its non-aesthetic desktop app, the program does do a lot correctly.
In the customer reviews that we examined, PureVPN received good to very good ratings. Users lauded the wide variety of features and responsive customer support, criticizing the interface and login process.