PureVPN has been operating as a VPN provider for quite a few years now, which makes it easy to understand why their service extends to so many countries: 141. The number of PureVPN servers is a bit less impressive, but still. 750-plus servers make PureVPN an interesting party for users who wish to operate in more exotic locations. Russia, China, and Turkey are options, but anonymous surfing in these territories comes with a warning. Local laws add an extra layer of risks involved.
After starting the setup, PureVPN gives you five options to choose from (Stream, Internet Freedom, Security/Privacy, File Sharing, and Remote/Dedi IP). Interestingly, this leads to different internet speeds. Upload/download speeds in Security/Privacy mode are much lower than when using Stream mode.
PureVPN offers apps with all major operating systems (Windows, iOS, OS X, Android, Linux). Unfortunately, using these apps can be confusing at times. An app starts by offering the five options we described before, but fails to detail what sets them apart. Making interacting with the app more complicated than necessary. We sorely miss options to fast-connect to specific servers. And we’re wondering why the option ‘Security/Privacy’ runs at much lower speeds we observe at other VPN services and companies. This seems a bit off: we’d expect the setting that offers the best privacy to be the default.
Installing VPN on PC or laptop is relatively easy. After the first menu, the app has a range of options to help you tune the service to your liking. One interesting option is so-called ‘split-tunneling’, allowing you to choose which programs run through VPN and which ones don’t. This makes it possible to play online video games without lag (VPN use causes a slight delay in internet speeds) while still using VPN for other software programs. Another nice feature is the possibility to transform your computer or laptop into a VPN-hotspot. Enabling you to use a secure VPN-connection on your tablets or smartphone, without having to install extra apps on these devices.
VPN for Android and iPhone offers the same experience. Apps you use here are practically similar to those used in Windows, offering the same features available on desktops. Notable differences are between the Android and iPhone apps. The Android app is prone to crashing, leaving users (temporarily) exposed. Also, connectivity on Android on a whole seems a bit slower and less stable than those we checked on iOS devices.
The possibility to circumvent geo-blocking is the main reason people use VPN, but PureVPN can hardly be called an expert in this field. Most IP-addresses associated with PureVPN are blocked by big streaming parties like the BBC or Netflix. Making it near-impossible to circumvent the geo-blocks on those services. Connecting to American Netflix or BBC iPlayer (UK) from an offshore account didn’t work as expected, even after changing servers a couple of times. Accessing smaller, more local streaming services works better, probably because these services are less than active when it comes to blacklisting IP. Still, VPN users are well advised this situation won’t last forever.
PureVPN’s upload and download speeds are wide and far apart. And depend on which selection of features you want to use. Also locality factors in: connections within Europe for instance are relatively stable and fast, while connecting to servers in Australia and Asia suffer from lesser infrastructure. In those cases, it may help hand-selecting a server that does the lifting for you.
The app’s selection menu could be more helpful in pinpointing why your internet slows down. Only after playing around with the settings for a bit, it became clear security settings are a main contributor. Which is strange, seeing how people use VPN for security reasons in the first place.
PureVPN services are relatively expensive. At the time of writing it’s advertising a discount: two years’ access for 2.87 dollar a month. Shorter subscriptions are possible, but at a cost: a six month subscription sets you back 7.95 per month. A one-month subscription is 9.95 USD. Extra options are available, and provide much added value, like a NAT-firewall or a set IP-address (with optional DDoS protection), or extra security options for companies.
PureVPN advertises a money-back guarantee, yet restrictions apply. Your right to reimbursement expires when you pay in cryptocurrency, for instance. Other users can ask for a refund within seven days of purchase, but only when they have used less than 3GB and logged in less than one hundred times in that period. Free VPN’s are available, but we don’t recommend using these. On the plus side, PureVPN offers an interesting company subscription, comprising of multiple accounts. Enabling employees to securely log into the company network!
Privacy and security
Anonymous surfing, for most users, is the main reason to look at VPN. PureVPN supports most important encryption methods and protocols. Unfortunately, our research showed a couple of details that are cause for concern, like the DNS-leak we talked about before.
Apart from this, we stumbled across PureVPN’s claim to not store logs about their clients’ surfing behaviour. Upon further investigation, it became clear the company does store session logs that enable PureVPN to check out when you’re logged in, for which period of time, and how much data you used. These data can be used to trace you. In one extreme case the session logs were even shared with the authorities.
You can find more info on testing your VPN connection in our dedicated article on this matter.
Netflix and torrents
PureVPN advertises the possibility to circumvent geo-blocking. But at the same time it can be hard to find a working VPN-server to do exactly that. We checked if we could reach the popular American Netflix and British BBC iPlayer services through VPN, but it took a very long time before we found a connection that didn’t seem hampered by the blocking efforts of said parties. Other things like downloading through Bittorrent is handled much better. Not every PureVPN server supported this option, but at least the possibility exists. Downloading was easy, dependent on the server, with acceptable download speeds.
Customer support has a 24/7 chat service. The service works fine, as far as we could tell, with quick answers to our queries. An extensive list of FAQ’s is available too, just as online forms to leave your questions. PureVPN also provides a seperate section for Chinese users, who have to take extra steps to secure their internet use.
PureVPN has been active for quite some time now, but has yet to meet the standard set by the best VPN providers. Several features are absolutely interesting, like the possibility to buy extra features on top of your subscription. Others will make experienced VPN users raise an eyebrow or two: a DNS leak in the recent past and PureVPN’s policy concerning session logs leave room for improvement.
On the plus side PureVPN seems to be a pretty good choice for companies, to have employees securely log into their companies’ network from places around the world.
PureVPN is based in China, which makes it relevant to stay up to date on changes in Chinese policy concerning internet use. China has been busy outlawing VPN servers, which is expected to cause trouble for companies like PureVPN.