A troubled past, but how does one of the oldest VPNs available stack up now? PureVPN Review
PureVPN was launched in 2007 in Hong Kong, free from the data retention laws that affect the rest of China. That choice of jurisdiction should have made for a great VPN in terms of privacy, but PureVPN’s data retention and sharing policies were tested when the service helped the FBI convict a man of stalking based on data gathered from their logs. Since then, PureVPN has claimed to change their policies and the data that they collect
What We Like
- Very affordable
- Works on a variety of devices
- Great security
- Torrenting and most streaming services supported
- Both unlimited server switching and bandwidth
- Dedicated connection modes
- Allows completely anonymous payments
What We Don’t Like
- Difficult past issues to overcome
- Speeds can be extremely slow
- Support is lackluster at best
- Refund policy limitations
- No refund for cryptocurrency payments
Add this to the military-grade security PureVPN employs, a relatively easy to use interface, and successful circumvention of streaming blocks, and the PureVPN of today is a service that many users find reliable and easy to use.
Setup Process: Very simple
Like most other VPNs, the setup process is simple. You purchase the plan you’d like to use, download the installer, and run it. The installer initiates a setup wizard that walks you through a series of options, and you’re read to go after just a few clicks.
There’s a lot more to the service than that, but the basic setup is very straightforward. Advanced users will have to dig into the sometimes confusing menus, with PureVPN disconnected, to find the settings they need.
PureVPN also allows connection from a plethora of devices, so users that want to can use a VPN on a gaming console, smart TV, streaming device, router, or smartphone should have no trouble getting connected.
PureVPN also allows connection from a plethora of devices, so users that want to can use a VPN on a gaming console, smart TV, streaming device, router, or smartphone.
Design: Somewhat user-friendly
When you open PureVPN the first time, it can be a little confusing to get it going. There is a simple one-click automatic connection option, but figuring out anything more advanced than that can take a little doing. For example, figuring out how to connect through a specific country or city is more difficult than simply activating the VPN in streaming or torrenting mode..
The connection mode feature is something that most other VPNs lack. Users choose from one of five options: stream, internet freedom, security/privacy, file-sharing, or dedicated IP. Selecting one of these options automatically optimizes your connection for that specific function.
The downfall to this is that unless you dig around, you may not realize that more than just a server location is changed according to what you want to do. For example, if you connect using the stream mode, the security protocols used are decreased to reduce the amount of lag you may experience while streaming.
Users that are interested in more granular control over these features can dig down into the settings to create defaults, like consistently high security, but those are not intuitive actions with PureVPN. It takes some playing around in the interface to learn what you can and cannot do versus what is done automatically for you.
Performance: Depends on what you’re doing
In our test, PureVPN performed consistently in the mid-low speed range when connected to a server without one of the connection modes selected. However, when we selected different connection codes, we saw vastly different speeds depending on the mode. For example, in streaming mode, the connection speed is higher than internet freedom mode.
During our tests, we connected through servers located in the UK, Hong Kong, the US, and the Netherlands. Surprisingly, Hong Kong was one of the slowest connections while the Netherlands was one of the fastest. The US and the UK both performed at similar speeds.
When tested with our 1 gigabit internet connection, we were able to achieve a maximum downstream speed of 223 Mbps through PureVPN’s servers.
Of note is the fact that PureVPN limits you to just five consecutive device connections, which is on the average to low side. However, you can connect up to 10 additional devices if you activate their VPN hotspot feature. This allows you to set up a PureVPN virtual router to act as a hotspot, and connect up to 10 wireless devices through the same VPN tunnel.
Streaming: More successful in streaming mode
We tested streaming a variety of content services while using PureVPN. On a general connection, users are likely to encounter some difficulty with streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. However, switch over to the streaming mode and availability for these services opened up.
PureVPN is especially useful for users who want to stream content that is blocked in their country of origin. For example, we were able to access Japanese and UK-based Netflix content, international Amazon Prime content, and even the BBC iPlayer.
The streaming mode connection also optimizes speeds to reduce the amount of buffering or lag that users experience. Unfortunately, this increase in performance comes at the cost of a decrease in security. If you’re in a safe location, it might not be a big deal, but for users streaming from less secure locations, this could be a concern.
We were able to access Japanese and UK-based Netflix content, international Amazon Prime content, and even the BBC iPlayer.
PureVPN now claims:
“We DO NOT keep any record of your browsing activities, connection logs, record of the VPN IPs assigned to you, your original IPs, your connection time, the history of your browsing, the sites you visited, your outgoing traffic, the content or data you accessed, or the DNS queries you generated.”
The company now claims they keep only the day you connected to a VPN location, the Internet Service Provider (ISP) you connected from, and the bandwidth consumed during your connection. According to PureVPN, this is to help with troubleshooting your connection and to ensure they provide enough resources for all users.
Security Features: Best-in-class, military grade
Where PureVPN wins in the VPN marketplace is in the security department. In addition to PureVPN using a variety of security protocols, including OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, SSTP, UDP, and IKEv2, it also employs an AES-256 cipher for encryption with an RSA-2048 handshake and SHA-1 authentication.
In addition to a wide variety of VPN protocols, and the highest level of encryption available, PureVPN also offers a number of other additional security features to ensure your online activities remain private while you’re connected through the service.
Some of the most important security features include:
- Built-in server level antivirus
- Intrusion detection and prevention capabilities deployed on servers strategically
- Customizable web filtering to help you avoid landing on a rogue website
- A NAT firewall (that only works on Windows computers)
- App blocking
- A Kill Switch
- DNS leak protection
- WebRTC Protection
In the past, there also seemed to be a problem with PureVPN leaking DNS information. With that in mind, we performed extensive testing to determine if any DNS information was leaked from numerous servers in various connection modes, and we were unable to detect any leakage. Our testing results indicate that the DNS leak protections implemented by PureVPN are in working order.
Additionally, for users who don’t need all their internet traffic protected, PureVPN offers split-tunneling that allows you to decide what should be included in VPN traffic and what can travel along your own wireless network.
Our testing results indicate that the DNS leak protections implemented by PureVPN are in working order.
Torrenting: Speedy, dedicated torrent connections
One subject that PureVPN has always remained consistent on is that torrenting is expressly allowed on the service. Not only does PureVPN offer a connection mode specifically for Peer-to-Peer (P2P) sharing, but users are freely able to use bittorrent regardless of the connection mode they have chosen.
Most PureVPN servers are enabled for torrenting, though users will encounter a few that are not. Like most VPN services that enable torrenting or have dedicated P2P servers, P2P is disabled on servers that are located in countries where that type of activity is illegal.
Ad Blocking: Cuts off ad servers at the DNS level
Some people use ad blockers as a convenience, but they can have security implications as well. In the case of VPN services, a built-in ad blocker can help protect your identity from invasive ad servers.
PureVPN includes a built-in DNS-level ad blockers, which is exactly what we like to see out of a competent VPN service. We did find PureVPN’s ad blocker to be a bit difficult to find and turn on, but it worked very well once we had it set up.
Since the ad blocker works at the DNS level, it prevents your browser from ever sending requests to ad servers. You never see any the ads, and the ad server never sees any information about your browser, device, or connection.
Customer Service: Web chat and a ticket system
PureVPN has a good level of customer service and support, with both web chat and a ticket system. If you require help immediately, and you want to talk to a support agent, you can use their web chat system. If you have a question that doesn’t need to be answered right away, their ticket-based system is also very easy to use.
Price: Very affordable
Another feature that PureVPN has going for it is the cost of the service. It’s one of the lowest in the market when purchasing one or more years of service at a time. The service costs $10.95 per month if you pay on a monthly basis, which is on the high end of the spectrum. If you purchase a longer-term plan you’ll pay $8.33 per month on a six month plan.
There is no free trial for PureVPN, but they do offer a 31 day money back guarantee. This guarantee is only available if you pay with certain payment methods, and no refund is possible if you use the cryptocurrency payment option.
If you’re not happy with the standard pricing for PureVPN, like many other VPN services, when you visit the website and start to leave the page, a pop-up ad appears. In some cases, this add can drop the price of the service to as little as $23.88 for one year, making it $1.99/month.
Competition: PureVPN vs Private Internet Access
Probably the biggest competitor for PureVPN is Private Internet Access (PIA), a US-based VPN service. PureVPN wins against PIA when it comes to cost PIA’s one and two year plans both coming in at slightly more expensive then PureVPN’s similar plans. PIA also offers just seven days to trial their service compared to the 31 day grace period you get with PurVPN.
PIA comes in slightly ahead of PureVPN for torrenting, since PIA has no restrictions on any of its servers against torrenting. However, PureVPN offers a larger selection of devices from which users can connect, and PureVPN’s connection modes make it easy for users to accomplish the task at hand without putting too much thought into the connection.
PureVPN has some black marks on its record thanks to voluntarily turning information over to the FBI despite being located in Hong Kong, while Private Internet Access has never turned over records despite a less favorable location in the United States.
A solid choice for fast speeds and an easy-to-use experience.
Overall, PureVPN is a solid choice VPN that is serviceable to both beginners and advanced users. The security issues of the past seem to have been addressed if you’re willing to roll the dice on a VPN that has turned over logs previously.
Add in the fantastic connection mode feature that takes the guesswork out confusing VPN settings and options, and PureVPN makes a decent choice for newcomers and anyone who just wants a hassle-free experience.
- Product Name: PureVPN
- Price: $3.33
- Speed (Fastest Observed): 223 Mbps (Tested on a 1Gbps connection)
- Operating Systems: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS
- Devices: Five devices at a time
- Server Locations: 180 Countries
- Number of Servers: 2,000
- Streaming: Yes, tested Netflix (outside US), Hulu (inside US), BBC iPlayer
- Torrenting: Yes, including kill switch
- Encryption: AES-256 OpenVPN or IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, SSTP, IKEv2, UDP
- Log Files: No logs policy, but has turned logs over to the FBI in the past
- Jurisdiction: Hong Kong