WHAT’S IN THIS REVIEW?
PureVPN was supposedly ‘created with the sole motive of keeping your online privacy intact and to offer absolute internet freedom’. It’s a strange claim considering they’ve given up user information in the past, despite claiming to collect no logs at the time.
They have worked to improve their reputation in recent years with a number of independent audits, aiming to prove that the software works as it should. Does it stack up to other, more reputable VPN providers, like NordVPN?
Find out exactly what we thought of the service in our extensive PureVPN review.
There are a number of positives to take away from my experience with PureVPN. Connection speeds have increased ever so slightly, and the trial version can be bought for less than a dollar. It works to unblock the majority of streaming platforms (including Netflix), while they have a massive server network that spans the globe.
Those are just a few of the benefits that we’ll get into below. However, some privacy concerns still remain, making it difficult to ascertain whether or not the service can be trusted to look after user data.
Initially released in 2007, PureVPN is one of the elder statesmen when it comes to commercial VPN software. They’ve been around for a while, and they’ve seen it all over the years. They started off with just two server locations, and now have a network that contains 6500+ servers, in 140+ countries, across 180+ locations.
PureVPN is owned by GZ Systems Limited. The company is based in Hong Kong, while they have a mailing address that corresponds with the region. Uzair Gadit is the co-founder and CEO, and he has a LinkedIn page. However, following protests in Hong Kong regarding a new National Security Law, they admitted:
“Our operational dependency on Hong Kong has always been minimal since all of our operations are overseas. We are taking time to evaluate our jurisdiction, and at this point, keeping all our options open.”
The point is, it all seems legitimate until you begin to dig a little deeper.
Once seen as a trusted “no-logs” provider, PureVPN made headlines in 2017 when it was revealed that their no-logging claims were misleading, as the company handed over user information to the FBI in an online stalking case.
You’ll find no mention on the PureVPN About page of their website, which conveniently skips from the ‘2015-2016’ period to ‘today’.
The service is apparently much improved in recent years, going as far as to complete a couple of independent audits to verify their updated logging policy. Have they done enough to win back trust, or are they doomed to forever be known as the company that gave up one of their users willingly?
Pros & Cons
There were a variety of pros and cons we encountered while testing PureVPN. Here are some of the most important aspects to consider.
Take a look at the main pros that put PureVPN in line with other big-name providers making headlines in the VPN world:
- Reasonably priced refundable seven-day trial
- Able to access streaming platforms
- Capable extras such as dedicated IP and port forwarding
- Up to 10 simultaneous logins
- Independently audited
- Consistent connection speeds
- 31-day money-back guarantee
- Available on a range of platforms
PureVPN’s questionable history with customer data had us looking at every aspect of the service. Here are the main cons standing in its own way:
- Slower, but consistent speeds
- Additional features locked behind a paywall
- Expensive one-month plan
- ‘No logs’ claims have been proven to be false in the past
- P2P functionality is blocked on some servers
PureVPN has a range of notable features, although they do charge extra for almost every single one that is worth mentioning. Smaller perks include a Kill Switch, as well as being able to choose between Dark/Light modes.
Otherwise, the big guns are hidden behind a paywall. We’ll go through each one below, describing what they do, and whether it’s worth the extra outlay.
Port forwarding ‘will enable users to create dedicated servers, run different types of services, and much more without being restricted from accessing anything anywhere because you will be able to direct traffic via your router directly to the desired device that sits behind it.’
In practice, it’s easy to see why they charge extra for the service. You’ll have to pay an additional fee of 25 cents per month, but it’s a feature that many others don’t provide.
Another interesting feature is the ability to pay for a dedicated IP address. As they explain;
“There are many web services, especially corporate job roles, that require a static IP to access certain databases. A dedicated IP VPN can prove to be your passport to certain networks, databases, servers, and more via the IP Whitelisting process.”
The dedicated IP is priced at an additional 99c per month. It’ll be worth it for a number of users, especially if they need to make secure online payments, or need access to the same virtual location.
DDoS protection will help you to withstand online attacks, as ‘your traffic first passes through our dedicated anti-DDoS VPN servers which are capable of absorbing the largest DDoS attacks.’
As with the Dedicated IP, PureVPN’s DDoS protection will cost the user an additional 99c per month. Again, it’s a feature that will be useful to some, but skippable for the majority of users.
- 7-Day Trial: $0.99
- 1 Month: $10.95/mo.
- 2 Years: $3.33/mo.
PureVPN does offer a range of plans to allow for some flexibility, and they’ve recently added a 7-day trial that can be redeemed for less than a dollar. They’re hoping that the trial will be good enough to convince users to commit to the long haul.
At $10.95 for one month, it’s one of the most expensive providers overall, although the price drops drastically to $3.33 if you’re prepared to commit to a 24-month deal. It’s also worth noting that they offer 10 simultaneous connections, rather than the usual 5.
However, payment options are limited to Debit Cards, Credit Cards, and PayPal, so there’s no way to get an account anonymously. When combined with their questionable logging practices, it’s something to remember.
Their refund policy is as follows; “If you aren’t satisfied with PureVPN’s service for any reason whatsoever, then you can claim a refund within 31 days of your order date.”
It’s great that they’ve opted for a full month, as most VPNs are limited to 30 days or less.
PureVPN definitely knows how to reassure the average user, if you take their zero-log claims at face value. They say;
“PureVPN has always given utmost importance to the security and privacy of its users. We have taken an additional step to assure our users that we are a zero-log VPN by engaging a third-party auditor. Altius IT, a leading California-based independent security auditor audited our security systems and privacy policies.”
They say that the Altius IT audit concludes:
“[we] did not find any evidence of system configurations and/or system/service log files that independently, or collectively, could lead to identifying a specific person and/or the person’s activity when using the PureVPN service.”
However, PureVPN was caught logging user data in 2017, when they handed it over to the FBI to catch an alleged cyberstalker. If their service really works in the way they claim, they would have had nothing to give, whatever the ethics of the case may be.
The independent audit has gone some way to allay fears, but have they really ‘always given utmost importance to the security and privacy of its users’?
It’s worth noting that PureVPN was supposedly a no-log provider back in 2017 when they helped the FBI with their case. As of 2021, they still retain your name, email address, and payment method when you sign up, with no way to do so anonymously.
PureVPN also collects information about ‘the connection length and how many connections you make when you use our VPN service’, while they ‘keep track of the total bandwidth consumed by you’.
In the interest of balance, they state that:
“PureVPN specifically chose Hong Kong (HK) for its headquarters because there are “No Mandatory Data Retention Laws” in Hong Kong. We are, therefore, not legally obliged to store user data and share it with anyone. Moreover, as stated above, we have no worthwhile data to share with any law enforcement agency from any particular country in the world. Even if and when we receive subpoenas that are legally upheld in the court of law in Hong Kong, we won’t be of much help since we have almost nothing of value to share.”
These stats should give you an idea of how quickly you’ll connect to the internet, as well as typical download and upload speeds. Every VPN claims to be the fastest, but many are left wanting when it comes to pure power.
Given the price and their reputation, I expected nothing less than the best from PureVPN. Firstly, here are what speeds look like with no VPN connected:
Nothing was out of the ordinary, although ping was a little higher than I would have liked. I connected to one of the PureVPN UK servers, as it should be based nearby. Results can be seen in the image below.
Roughly 90 Mbps is slow. It’s one of the slowest speeds I’ve recorded while testing VPNs in recent months, and it works out to roughly a third of the 250 Mbps seen above. Ping had almost doubled, which isn’t great news for gamers.
Next up were the recommended US servers, as seen below:
Again, speeds were limited to roughly 90 Mbps, which isn’t great if you’re hoping to stream 4K content, or you wanted to get what you’ve paid for. For a provider that claims to have the ‘fastest speeds across the globe’, it’s not a good result.
However, what they do have is remarkable consistency, no matter where you connect to. For example, you’ll see typical speeds while connected to Johannesburg, South Africa, next:
Maybe the ‘fastest speeds across the globe’ translate to their consistency across all continents. It’s arguably better than focusing on one region such as Europe or the US, but the average download rate could certainly do with being a bit faster.
If you have slower speeds to begin with it should be okay, otherwise lag is likely to be noticeable while the VPN is active.
Server Locations & Network
A massive network that comprises over 180 locations in 140 countries, PureVPN has a total of 6,500 servers dotted around the world. It’s certainly impressive, and they’ve continued to add to their tally rapidly in recent years.
It’s one of the biggest networks you’ll find in the industry, and there’s coverage in Central America, as well as Africa and Asia. The majority of their servers are found in North America and Europe, with a tally of 1,776 and 2,750 respectively.
However, the number of physical servers they have on offer is significantly lower than the 6,500 total. As PureVPN admits:
“To provide users with a reliable, secure, and fast connection, PureVPN makes use of virtual server locations. A number of our servers are virtual, and these have been clearly mentioned in the list of VPN servers.”
In practice, this can lead to faster load times, as your traffic won’t have to be routed by such a long distance. It’s not really preferable to physical servers, but at least they are open and honest about the true extent of their network.
PureVPN deserves top marks for making its software accessible to a worldwide audience.
Streaming & Torrenting
PureVPN scores highly when it comes to streaming. Apps like Disney + and BBC iPlayer worked perfectly, and their large server network only helps in this regard.
If you’re looking for a VPN solely for streaming, PureVPN is a great choice. Speeds are consistent, while they have enough IP addresses to unblock platforms regularly.
“P2P/ File sharing is allowed with our service, but on the below mentioned shared servers/countries;”
Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium, Bermuda, Bolivia, British Virgin Islands, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Monaco, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovenia, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Venezuela
They go on to note that:
“Furthermore, we have blocked P2P on some of our servers as per changing Global Web Policy. We don’t allow p2p/filesharing where it’s illegal by law named United Kingdom (UK) , United States (US), Canada, Australia etc.”
So, it’s a decent option for file sharing, as long as you stick to the rules. This leads us nicely to the next section.
The damage to their reputation after 2017 was notable, as the average user would have expected PureVPN to have no user information to give. In response, they’ve tightened their logging policy in recent years, while they’ve tried to be more transparent and open about the information they do collect. (Which is still more than others.)
PureVPN has made some moves to combat censorship in the past. For example, they removed their Hong Kong servers in 2020 as a precautionary measure, but they still have servers in Russia, even if they’re not listed on their website.
You’d think they would want to advertise another location. You’ll find confirmation of their Russian servers below:
They’re also happy to conform to the law when it comes to torrenting, even if it’s for legal files.
Platforms & Devices
If you’re hoping for compatibility, PureVPN is likely to have a native app to go with any device. PureVPN apps work with various routers and consoles, as well as;
- Apple TV
- Android TV
- More than 20 other OS and devices
The app is clean and fairly easy to use, with Recommended Locations at the top, along with Recently Connected locations below.
However, there were a few random bugs and errors I encountered, such as when the VPN decided to quit for no reason.
This happened twice, and it’s not something I expected to see. I had to search for servers manually, as the recommended location popped up with an error multiple times when I tried to connect.
I restarted my computer, but that didn’t help. It’s a minor bug, but it does impede the overall user experience.
Encryption & Security
Depending on the platform you’ve selected, there are a variety of protocols offered by PureVPN. Protocols they support include PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, OpenVPN, IPSec, and IKEv2.
The VPN will select a protocol automatically, while there were two options to choose from on my Mac:
WireGuard support would be great, but at least there’s some choice.
As for security, in 2013, attackers leveraged a flaw in WHMCS to send emails warning of a loss of privacy and legal issues to PureVPN users. CSO reported on the news at the time, and reached out for comment:
“CSO asked PureVPN, since given the nature of the vulnerability itself, if it can be disproved that the entire email database was accessed, but the company didn’t respond to questions.”
However, that was a long time ago, and it’s unfair to judge the company on severely outdated software. As we’ve already mentioned, they did hand over user data that they weren’t supposed to have in 2017, but they have worked to improve their image ever since.
Any lingering doubts about PureVPN should have been dissuaded following the audits of their software, but it’s still hard for me to believe that the company can really be trusted to protect its users. They also appear to have servers located in Russia, which isn’t great from a privacy standpoint.
In terms of usability, the additional simultaneous connections will undoubtedly come in handy for families, while the app is crisp and clean. UI bugs are annoying but forgivable, but the same can’t be said for the app crashing unexpectedly, which happened a few times during testing.
Pricing is on the cheaper end of the scale, but there isn’t much flexibility, you have to hand over payment info for the trial version, and there aren’t any anonymous methods to do so.
Lastly, speeds are consistent, if a little on the slow side compared to other VPNs that don’t have as many servers on offer. (Sometimes, it’s better to go for quality, rather than quantity.)
PureVPN is somewhat disappointing, especially when taking into account their large server network, and the power of their brand recognition. Overall, it’s not a bad package, but it could be so much better.