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PureVPN review

PureVPN Review

PureVPN is one of those Virtual Private Networks that get extremely mixed reviews. Some people claim that it’s the best VPN ever, while others suggest avoiding it like the plague.

In this unbiased PureVPN review, I’ll try to dig out the truth. Is PureVPN safe? Does it keep any logs? Can it unblock Netflix? Read on to find out all of this and more.

Region:Hong Kong
Logs:No activity logs
Price:From $3.33/month
Support:Knowledge base, tickets, live chat
Locations:140+ countries
Torrenting:Yes
Netflix:Yes

PureVPN pros & cons

Pros

  • AES-256 encryption
  • Can unblock streaming sites
  • Supports torrenting
  • Split-tunneling on Android
  • Supports port forwarding
  • 31-day money-back guarantee
  • Vast selection of VPN protocols

Cons

  • Has exposed private customer info
  • Limited Linux app
  • Doesn’t support WireGuard
  • Kill switch doesn’t always work
  • Connection issues
  • No free version

Is PureVPN safe?

On a technical level, PureVPN is quite strong in the security department. It uses strong encryption and offers reliable tunneling protocols like OpenVPN. However, some of its logging policy choices are questionable. Continue reading this PureVPN review to find out more.

Encryption and tunneling protocols

Nearly all the tunneling protocols supported by PureVPN offer AES-256 encryption with the exception of PPTP, which is an outdated and insecure protocol.

AES-256 is the current industry standard of encryption, trusted by the US government, military, and companies that deal with sensitive data. The reason is the cipher’s complexity and the huge number of 2256 possible key combinations.

PureVPN also implements lots of different tunneling protocols. All of them differ in speed and security, and you are free to pick the one that suits your needs at the time.

PureVPN protocols

OpenVPN (TCP and UDP) – most PureVPN applications support both TCP and UDP variants of the open-source OpenVPN protocol. If you’re not sure which one to choose, simply keep in mind that TCP is a bit more reliable while UDP is much faster.

IKEv2 – known for its consistent connection and versatility, this tunneling protocol can sometimes offer better speed than OpenVPN UDP.

SSTP – developed by Microsoft, this tunneling protocol works only on Windows and is great for those who want to bypass the Great Firewall of China.

L2TP/IPSec – L2TP/IPSec is not as efficient and reliable as OpenVPN. Albeit it is yet to be shown to be insecure, the Snowden leaks suggest the NSA may have backdoors for this protocol.

PPTP – an insecure tunneling protocol, to be avoided in almost any situation.

Unfortunately, PureVPN doesn’t offer WireGuard, which is the fastest VPN protocol available today.

Logging

I’ll be blunt with you here – if privacy is your main concern while using a Virtual Private Network, then PureVPN might not be the right program for you.

First of all, it is based in Hong Kong. Even though this region has different laws from the rest of China, the ever-changing political situation doesn’t guarantee this in the future. As of today, Hong Kong retains a lot of autonomy and has privacy-friendly laws, which makes it a suitable place for basing a VPN. However, there’s just too much instability for any long-term predictions.

Secondly, PureVPN has already proven that it can leak personal information to the authorities. In 2017, the company aided in the arrest of an alleged cyberstalker by providing his logs to the FBI. More precisely, they managed to trace two of the criminal’s email accounts to the same IP address.

After this incident, PureVPN altered their privacy policy to regain their users’ trust. They claim that they don’t collect IP addresses, assigned VPN server IP addresses, VPN session timestamps, browsing activities, and DNS requests. In addition, their privacy policy has been audited by Altius IT, a US-based security audit firm.

However, PureVPN’s website states that they still keep track of your name, email address, and payment method. And as there’s no BTC option when paying for the service, you have no route for an anonymous monetary transaction.

Also, there’s no guarantee that history won’t repeat itself. So, if your wellbeing depends on the VPN you use, choose a more reliable one.

PureVPN features

Kill switch

A good kill switch is an essential feature of any VPN. When enabled, it automatically stops your internet connection as soon as you get disconnected from your VPN by accident. It’s especially useful when you’re using public Wi-Fi (which is prone to hacker attacks) or when you’re torrenting and don’t want your identity to get compromised.

PureVPN kill switch

The kill switch of PureVPN is enabled by default (of course, you can disable it anytime you want). Unfortunately, even though it works most of the time, it’s not perfect in unusual situations.

For example, I tried connecting to another VPN while PureVPN was in use, as using two VPNs usually results in the internet shutting down (which would activate PureVPN’s kill switch). However, I was able to connect to the second VPN without issue. And when I disconnected from it, PureVPN indicated that it was still in use.

Now, here’s the worst part. When I checked my IP address, I found my own IP instead of the one of the server I was supposedly connected to. In other words, my IP was leaked.

Of course, a regular user shouldn’t try using two VPNs in the first place. However, the fact that the kill switch didn’t react appropriately shows us that it is prone to confusion and might not handle other atypical situations.

Split tunneling

At the moment, you can find the split tunneling feature only in the Android app of PureVPN. This is quite a handy feature to have, so let’s hope they add it to the other apps in the future.

PureVPN split tunneling screen

Split tunneling allows you to conserve bandwidth by letting you choose the applications (or, sometimes, websites) that will use the VPN connection. In other words, the traffic of some of your apps will be encrypted, while the rest of your internet traffic will go through an open network.

When trying to set up split tunneling on PureVPN, you get a list of the applications installed on your phone. Simply mark the ones that should connect through the VPN, and you’re good to go.

Port forwarding

Port forwarding is an extra feature of PureVPN that you can buy for less than a dollar a month. When configured properly, it allows the computers outside of your network to access a specific device connected to your local network.

PureVPN port forwarding screen

With port forwarding, you can set up gaming servers, host small websites, watch your security camera, or simply access your device remotely whenever you feel the need.

Speed and performance: How fast is PureVPN?

LocationIKEv2OpenVPN UDPOpenVPN TCP
Lithuania12/155/355/243/29412/178/38
UK40/225/3454/156/9947/81/22
Switzerland56/167/950/248/7859/37/22
US (NY)137/130/9146/121/180149/19/13
US (FL)139/183/10132/114/183138/17/4
US (LA)156/192/8160/114/93162/14/12
India301/197/2278/76/188500/8/0.6
Argentina341/49/10378/101/14337/13/16
Japan277/197/5273/115/63253/9/4
Australia238/182/7295/166/220343/1/11
The first number shows latency in ms, second is download speed, and third is upload speed

Baseline: 1ms/300mbps download/300mbps upload

When using the Windows app, I find it convenient that you can see the ping of every location before connecting to it. In this way, you can find the fastest servers without the need to test them first. Also, while connected to a server, the app shows the current upload and download speed, as well as the tunneling protocol in use.

PureVPN connected screen

However, as PureVPN doesn’t support the WireGuard protocol, it isn’t as fast as it could be. Even though its speeds are not terrible thanks to the OpenVPN UDP protocol, you could certainly do a lot better for speed. Especially if you’re connected to a remote server.

For example, I experienced an 84% speed drop when connected to an Argentinian server. Luckily, the situation with all the other servers was better: for instance, when connected to a Swiss server with the OpenVPN UDP protocol, the speed dropped by only 17% compared to the baseline. Still, the speeds would be much better if PureVPN implemented WireGuard.

Also, you might have some connection issues when using the IKEv2 tunneling protocol. During my tests, some servers kept disconnecting and I even lost internet access while being connected to the VPN.

Plans & pricing

VersionPrice
2-year plan$3.33/month
1-year plan$5.83/month
Monthly plan$10.95/month

No matter which PureVPN subscription plan you buy, you’ll get the same features together with the possibility to use the VPN on 10 devices simultaneously (just keep in mind that the VPN’s Terms of Service prohibit sharing your account with other people – even family members).

When you open their pricing page, you’ll notice that the VPN’s price starts at $0.99. This is not a monthly price – you’ll pay the dollar for a 7-day trial, after which you’ll get billed $69.95 a year.

Luckily, there’s a 31-day money-back guarantee that lets you change your mind in case you’re not satisfied with the service.

PureVPN prices

Keep in mind that you’re eligible for the $0.99 trial only if you buy the yearly subscription. However, even having the trial price in mind, it is cheaper to get the two-year plan for $3.33 a month.

You can also get PureVPN for a single month for $10.95. Taking into account all the other VPNs on the market, this is not an outrageous price for a monthly subscription.

The payment options include PayPal and credit cards. It’s not possible to pay with Bitcoin, even though PureVPN has a landing page that advertises BTC payments.

Some extra info

In addition to the regular plans of PureVPN, there are three extra features you can pick when buying a subscription:

  • Port forwarding: $0.25 for the trial, $11.88 per year after the trial. Gives you an add-on that allows you to set up port forwarding.
  • Dedicated IP: $0.99 for the trial, $35.88 per year after the trial. When buying, you have to select the country for the IP (US, UK, Singapore, Malta, Germany, Australia, Canada).
  • DDoS protection: $0.99 for the trial, $47.88 per year after the trial. You get a DDoS protected IP picked from the following countries: US, UK, New Zealand, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Germany, France.

For some reason, it is not possible to select all three options at once – only two are allowed. However, even with two extra options, the yearly price of PureVPN grows significantly: you’ll pay $129.71 if you buy a 1-year plan together with a dedicated IP and DDoS protection.

PureVPN extra features

Also, the mere fact that you have to pay extra for a DDoS-protected IP seems a bit suspicious, as all VPN servers should be protected from such attacks by default.

PureVPN server locations

With regard to the number of servers, at first glance PureVPN can compete even with the most popular VPNs like NordVPN and ExpressVPN, as it offers 6,500+ servers in 140+ countries:

  • North America: 1,788 servers
  • Europe: 2,750 servers
  • Asia: 576 servers
  • Central America: 15 servers
  • South America: 171 servers
  • Oceania: 451 servers
  • Africa: 124 servers

With that said, you might want to know that there are two types of servers offered by PureVPN. A good chunk of them are physical, which means that they are physically located in the country they appear to be in.

However, a lot of PureVPN’s servers are virtual. A virtual server seems to be located in a different country than it actually is. For example, if you choose to connect to a Bulgarian server, it might be located in Greece. Luckily, you’ll be assigned a Bulgarian IP address anyway. Unluckily, you can’t hope to get a similar level of performance compared to a physical server.

It also seems that their website hasn’t been updated in quite a while: some landing pages advertise that PureVPN offers only 2,000+ servers.

PureVPN locations

If you use their Android app, you can also choose one of four modes to filter the servers according to your needs: Stream, Internet Freedom, Security/Privacy, and File Sharing. And I like the fact that if you don’t find a server in the country you need, you can contact support and request such a server. They promise to do their best to get the server you want.

You can check out the full list of both virtual and physical servers on the official site of PureVPN.

Streaming performance: does PureVPN work with Netflix?

While it’s not the best VPN for streaming, PureVPN is able to unlock some geo-blocked content depending on the server you’re connected to.

I managed to unblock the US library of Netflix – however (and this may just be some sort of bug on my end), this worked only on the Microsoft Edge browser, as Netflix on Chrome simply displayed content from my own country. Unfortunately, PureVPN wasn’t successful at unblocking the French and German libraries. Some users even report that Netflix doesn’t load at all when this VPN is in use.

In addition, even though I was able to unblock BBC iPlayer, the connection was incredibly slow and I experienced lots of buffering. I also tried my luck with DAZN and successfully unblocked it with the help of a UK server. However, the streaming site didn’t work when I was connected to a US server.

Unsurprisingly, accessing geo-blocked content from Youtube was a piece of cake, as I have yet to see a VPN that doesn’t unblock this site.

Is PureVPN good for Torrenting?

First of all, you should know that not all PureVPN’s servers support torrenting. The VPN provider has blocked P2P on servers located in countries that prohibit file sharing (the US, the UK, Canada, etc.).

Luckily, there are still lots of servers that you can use for torrenting. You can see which of them support P2P on the list under the Locations tab.

So, I checked whether torrenting with PureVPN truly works. I had no issues but the speeds weren’t great: it took 25 minutes to download a 5GB Linux installation image, while it only takes 3 minutes without a VPN.

Interface and ease of use

Desktop versions

Here’s what you should know when downloading the Windows client from the official site of PureVPN: you’re actually getting a new beta version of the app, which, at the moment, lacks some of the old features like split tunneling. The customer support agent told me that this is done for testing purposes. However, it is not clear whether the new version will receive any more updates regarding features and usability.

PureVPN main screen Windows

So, the current PureVPN Windows version supports OpenVPN (TCP and UDP) and IKEv2 tunneling protocols. It lets you select the protocol, as well as enable/disable the kill switch and auto-connection.

I found it a bit frustrating that you can’t jump from server to server with a single click: you need to disconnect from the current server first before connecting to a new one. By the way, the app’s design is extremely minimalistic – whether you’ll like this or not depends on your taste.

The Mac version of the app is almost identical to the Windows one – except there’s no ping displayed next to each server, which I found a bit disappointing. Also, this application only supports IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, and PPTP tunneling protocols.

Now, the Linux version is the most different of them all. It functions through the Command Line Interface, which means that it is targeted at users with an IT background. The Linux app offers OpenVPN TCP and OpenVPN UDP protocols.

PureVPN mobile apps

Right now, the Android app of PureVPN is the most feature-rich of the bunch. It offers different server modes (Stream, Internet Freedom, Security/Privacy, and File Sharing), split tunneling, the possibility to choose the network type (NAT or non-NAT), as well as the Dark and Light themes.

On the other hand, the Android application offers only IPSec and IKEv2 tunneling protocols. I also found it weird that the VPN displays a giant red button when connected to a server. This is counterintuitive, as most VPNs show a green icon when the VPN is in use.

PureVPN android screen

Now, the iOS app is more similar to the Windows version in terms of design and functionality. It supports OpenVPN TCP, OpenVPN UDP, and IKEv2 protocols.

Customer support

If you encounter a problem while using PureVPN, you can head straight to its support page and browse through the setup, troubleshooting, and FAQ sections. You can also fill in a support ticket. Interestingly, you have to log into the page with your PureVPN account before doing that.

There’s also the 24/7 live chat. To start the chat, you only need to enter your name and email address. Then, you get a customer support agent in under a minute.

PureVPN customer support

When chatting with the agent, I complained about my unstable VPN connection. He gave me a link to download an older version of PureVPN, which I found quite unusual – this doesn’t seem like it should be the first recommended troubleshooting step to any problem.

Other than that, the support agent was really polite and tried his best to be helpful.

Is PureVPN any good?

To be completely blunt with you, I wouldn’t put PureVPN on the list of the best VPNs of 2021. While for the most part it does its job well, there are just too many bugs that make the experience inconvenient.

Also, the absence of WireGuard, average speeds, a questionable logging policy, and the lack of many important features make PureVPN a poor choice for privacy geeks.

On the bright side, PureVPN is not completely useless. It successfully unblocked Netflix, BBC iPlayer, DAZN, and Youtube. What’s more, it should work in China thanks to the SSTP tunneling protocol (although I’m not sure using PureVPN in China is a good idea).

All in all, I suggest skipping PureVPN until it fixes its flaws. There are too many great VPNs out there, and risking your privacy is just not worth it.

FAQ

Does PureVPN work in China?

Most likely, yes. PureVPN supports the SSTP tunneling protocol which is usually able to bypass the Great Firewall.

Can I trust PureVPN?

It depends. The company swears by its no-log policy, however, it stores some personal data (like your email address) and has been involved with the FBI.

Is PureVPN legal?

Yes. If the use of VPN services is legal in your country, then PureVPN is no exception.

Who owns PureVPN?

PureVPN is owned by GZ Systems Ltd., which is based in Hong Kong.

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