PureVPN Review Overview
08/07/20 EDIT: PureVPN has actively been improving their service since we published this review in 2019. For this reason, we plan on revisiting this review in its entirety in the near future. One thing to mention is PureVPN’s support team has improved tenfold. We’ve had great experiences during our communications and will thoroughly retest it when revisiting the review.
- 2000+ servers
- Military-grade encrryption
- Best VPN protocols
- Currently untrustworthy
- 12 month plan - $5.81 per month ($69.72 total cost)
- 1 month plan - $10.95 per month ($10.95 total cost)
In 2017, PureVPN and IPVanish were embroiled in an industry scandal after handing user data to the FBI despite claiming not to log any such data.
IPVanish has since changed ownership and redeemed itself (read our IPVanish Review for more details), but can the same be said for PureVPN?
Some VPN “review” sites – including Mashable and TheVPNLab – continue to sing the provider’s praises as if 2017 never happened.
So if you’re looking for a brutally honest PureVPN review, you’re in the right place. We won’t be pulling any punches here – and we’re not getting paid a cent by any VPN company for what we say in this or any other VPN review.
How PureVPN Compares to the Competition
Located in a Questionable Jurisdiction
PureVPN is a Hong Kong-based provider. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not exactly a good thing either.
Even though Hong Kong isn’t a 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, or 14 Eyes jurisdiction itself, they are technically a Chinese territory. To be fair, China’s draconian privacy laws don’t extend to Hong Kong, which takes a relatively favorable stance.
But Hong Kong’s government is well-known for surveillance and privacy issues, and China has been trying to gain more control over the territory.
All this puts us on guard even more than usual and makes us want to err on the side of caution by considering Hong Kong a jurisdiction almost as bad as a 5 Eyes country.
Doubtful No-Logs Policy
But the second last sentence of that same paragraph began with: “Connection and bandwidth are kept in record…”
Records and logs are the same thing. And, as we mentioned earlier, those logs were used to help the FBI implicate user activity by cross-referencing them with third party user logs.
See the issue?
PureVPN claims not to keep any connection logs, yet there’s a section on the type of information kept in the connection logs they record.
And it’s exactly the same information too – your connection dates, which PureVPN server location you’re connecting to, and who your ISP is. The only difference is your original IP address is supposedly no longer recorded.
As for bandwidth? PureVPN is still recording that too.
What About the Altius IT Audit?
For this reason, we’re not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt just yet.
Military-Grade Encryption and the Best VPN Protocols
When it comes to encryption, PureVPN follows the industry norm by using military-grade 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Quite frankly, it’s virtually impossible to crack.
PureVPN pairs that encryption standard with the best VPN protocols currently available. This is a little trickier to explain, so we recommend you take a look at our Beginner’s Guide to VPN Protocols when you get a chance.
In a nutshell though, PureVPN uses OpenVPN (both UDP and TCP), which is what we recommend if you’re not very familiar with this technology.
For those of you a little more tech-savvy, you can also choose from L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2, and SSTP. You could also use PPTP, but we never recommend doing so due to its many vulnerabilities and poor encryption standards.
Kill Switch, Split Tunneling, and DNS Leak “Protection”
Some of the most important security features on a VPN include the kill switch and split tunneling capabilities. We’ll briefly introduce both of them here.
The Internet Kill Switch is exactly what it sounds like: a feature that kills your internet connection if your device stops communicating with the VPN server, even if it’s only for a split second. In our opinion, it should always be on by default and never switched off.
Unfortunately, PureVPN forces users to give them administration rights to your computer before you can activate their kill switch. And there’s no way to get around doing so.
Even worse, it doesn’t always work. And that’s how you get your personal IP address leaked.
The Split Tunneling feature lets you create exceptions by telling PureVPN which apps you don’t want to have running via their servers.
It’s incredibly useful if you’re a heavy VPN user, so we’re glad to see PureVPN has one. Unfortunately, it’s only available for Windows, Android, and Android TV clients, which leaves a lot of customers high and dry. Plus, it’s still in beta testing and prone to issues.
Another very important security feature is DNS Leak Protection.
Simply put, the Domain Name Service (DNS) is how your device and the servers know what you’re looking for when you type a site name into the search bar.
Without DNS leak protection in place, your ISP is going to know which sites you’re visiting, which kind of negates the point of using a VPN in the first place.
And if you’re in a country like China, a DNS leak can be very, very dangerous.
PureVPN does have a DNS leak protection feature. Unfortunately, just like their kill switch, it doesn’t always work.
No TOR and No Double VPN
In a world were true online anonymity is still an unattainable dream, The Onion Router (TOR) helps bring you as close as possible. And that’s especially true if you use it on top of a VPN.
However, TOR slows your internet speed, sometimes rather considerably. So do VPNs (some not so much). Put them together, and you might find your internet becomes impractically sluggish.
On top of that, not all VPNs are TOR-compatible.
If you’re not averse to sacrificing speed in favor of nearly absolute online privacy, then a TOR-friendly VPN is a must. And unfortunately, PureVPN fails in this regard.
Usually, we’d say that’s not much of an issue, so long as the VPN offers what’s called a Double VPN feature (also known as a Multi-Hop). This is where the VPN connects you to a second server to improve security.
But PureVPN doesn’t offer that either. We had to clarify what we meant when talking to their Live Chat agent, who seemed to think we meant split tunneling:
Server Connections and Device Compatibility
As a general rule of thumb, the more servers there are, the better.
More servers (in more locations) means you have a better chance of finding a working connection that isn’t bogged down with network overload, which slows things down.
When a VPN provider is still new, we’re more forgiving of a low server count. But when they’ve been around since 2006, like PureVPN, we want to see 2,134 servers. Given the many disappointments in other areas, we’re glad to see they deliver on this front.
PureVPN also went the extra mile in terms of server locations. While most only have servers in up to 60 countries, PureVPN has 180+ locations in 140+ countries. That’s impressive.
A little less impressive is the fact you only get up to 5 simultaneous connections. It’s still better than some and will be more than enough for most people, so we don’t consider this too much of a con.
Surprisingly, they don’t have a page dedicated to displaying their different device apps in a neat, easily navigated way. Instead, you have to scroll to the bottom of their site for a list:
- Android TV
- Amazon Smart TV
- Chrome (browser extension)
- Firefox (browser extension)
If you come from a large household, you can use PureVPN with your router to eliminate the issue of only 5 simultaneous connections.
Along with security, speed is the most important aspect of a VPN.
It’s also difficult to compare accurately, because so many different things affect it, including the device you’re using, the server you’re connecting to, and your regular internet speed.
This is why we use the same devices, server locations, and internet connection for every VPN review.
Now, PureVPN has been rather disappointing in most areas. We didn’t have high hopes for their speed either.
Here are the results:
Clearly, we were right to reserve our high hopes for another VPN provider.
Subscription Plans and Pricing
PureVPN offers relatively budget-friendly subscription plans. And like most of their competitors, the longer the plan, the better the price:
As you can see, the best deal is on their 2-Year plan, which (like the others) enjoys a 31-day money-back guarantee.
You can also purchase a 3-day trial for $2.50 – however, when we purchased the trial, we received an email within 30 minutes saying “It’s the last day of your trial!” So much for 3 days.
You also get a whole range of different payment options, including card, PayPal, Alipay, Payment Wall, BlueSnap, and – interestingly enough – various gift cards (though these are non-refundable).
Oddly, Bitcoin is listed on a totally separate page as one of the payment options. But it’s nowhere to be found on the orders page.
We asked PureVPN’s live chat support about this, but all we got were vague responses that didn’t actually answer the question at all.
All-in-all, it smacks of false advertising, which some VPN Comparison sites also called PureVPN out on.
Promises of Streaming and Torrenting Capabilities
As you can imagine, the more we dug into their service, the less faith we had in PureVPN’s ability to live up to ANY of its promises.
So we were increasingly skeptical as we began testing their claim of unblocking any website, including streaming services like Netflix.
After activating Streaming Mode, we found PureVPN is very good at unblocking Netflix US, but terrible at just about everything else.
Even worse, your traffic is no longer encrypted when using Streaming Mode, which means instead of the VPN you paid for, you’re suddenly sitting with a proxy.
We were even more nervous about testing their claim to be the best VPN for torrenting. Thankfully, there are legal uses for torrenting (or P2P file sharing), which won’t get you into trouble with the law.
Here, at least, PureVPN is able to perform. They have a list of servers optimized for P2P (Peer-to-Peer), but you need to look for it in the app.
We’d still recommend opting for one of the alternatives in our guide on the Best Torrenting VPNs, though.
Usability and Support
The PureVPN Windows app installation took us 6 minutes to complete – a little longer than ideal, but not by much.
Figuring the app out took way longer than usual, though.
To start, you’re asked to pick a mode depending on what you want to use the VPN for.
That’s all very good, but you have to look for the dedicated support page to know what any of it means or how it works.
Finally, you get to choose a server.
But before you do that, you need to find the settings menu and go through the several extra tabs it opens to make sure everything that should be on is activated.
Long story short, for a VPN with so few features (never mind the fact even those don’t always work properly), their app isn’t very user-friendly.
Most users will be relying on live chat support while figuring things out.
Which, as you’ve already seen by the screenshots we shared in earlier sections, is almost as good as saying you’re on your own.
We don’t know whether PureVPN is using chatbots instead of live support agents, or if they simply went out of their way to find the least capable agents. Either way, it’s appallingly dismal.
How to Cancel PureVPN and Get Your Money Back
To be rather blunt about it, we absolutely do NOT recommend PureVPN, and if you’ve been suckered into paying for a subscription, then this section is dedicated to helping you escape.
Thankfully, it’s a lot easier to cancel PureVPN than it is to use the service:
- Log into your PureVPN account by following this link to the Cancellation Form
- Choose when you want the cancellation to take effect
- Answer a few more questions
- PureVPN will follow-up with you
- Send an email with your username and reason for cancellation to firstname.lastname@example.org to request a refund