Last update: 10.25.2018
Once bitten, twice shy; do not judge a book by its cover – which is it?! Our PureVPN review tries to answer that and more.
Before we start to take PureVPN apart and judge them for seemingly betraying their heavily promoted no logs policy, maybe we should take a deep breath and have a look at the big picture. Because, first of all, we are here to provide you with the necessary knowledge to find yourself the best VPN. Is it a VPN for torrenting, Kodi, Netflix, or simply geo-blocked websites that you’re looking for? In some of these cases, PureVPN can be a half-decent choice.
As usual, we found both pros and cons to PureVPN in terms of online security, privacy, speed, customer support, and more. If it weren’t for the scandals and signs of negligence, we’d have no qualms putting it on our Top 10. PureVPN is very fast, has plenty of servers, good comfort features, security features, and doesn’t come close to breaking the bank. Unfortunately for us and them, all the good things are pushed to the side due to PureVPN sharing data on their users with law enforcement and leaky software. But before we share our final verdict, read the rest of our PureVPN review to see exactly what makes this decade-old VPN provider so controversial.
Security & Privacy: The logs vs. no logs cogs in the cybersecurity machine
We believe that when it comes to VPN, the most important question is whether it’s good in terms of online security and privacy. However, for many users, this may not be that important because they are only interested in accessing geo-blocked web content, such as Netflix.
As this PureVPN review will show, there are several big issues with this tool and its reliability. So, before you decide to purchase a plan, let’s take a look at them one by one:
- PureVPN is officially based in Hong Kong and operates under the name of GZ Systems Limited. So far so good – Hong Kong is not a member country in any of the Five/Nine/Fourteen Eyes global surveillance alliances. After a bit of digging, you will find that a Pakistani company called Gaditek boasts PureVPN as part of their portfolio.
- Gaditek, a self-proclaimed 21st century “new age company,” is as shady as they get. It is more or less common knowledge that they maintain several websites to promote PureVPN as #1 VPN, the fastest VPN, the most secure VPN, and so on. One of these is a widely-known and well-ranked site, called vpnranks.com (not VPN pranks, although you’d be forgiven for the mistake).
So, if you’re wondering how come you’ve been reading all these great PureVPN reviews, well, it might just be that marketing gun aimed at you.
- Another serious reliability issue is that in the past PureVPN had been found to leak IPv4, IPv6, and DNS requests even with all the necessary security settings enabled. Now, this is probably the worst that can happen to you, no-logs policy or not. This simply means that your IP address, your browsing history as well as your location can be traced right back to you. With that said, the basic tests we ran showed no leaks of any kind, so it’s unclear whether the leaks are no longer an issue or triggered by unorthodox circumstances.
- What else can be catastrophic while using PureVPN to protect your privacy? A faulty kill switch maybe? Yes, unfortunately, as we have found when researching for this PureVPN review, your traffic will not always be blocked the moment your VPN connection drops. This faulty kill switch may reveal your IP address, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) as well as your location. The problem is that if you stay online, you will be automatically connected to the internet via your ISP, which means total disclosure. Then again, a faulty kill switch is better than no kill switch.
- Finally, let’s talk about that rather controversial FBI case from last fall (2017), which created a huge virtual tsunami in the VPN world. First, the FBI contacted PureVPN about a US-based cyberstalker, who was using this VPN service to stalk on a former roommate, her family, and friends. Second, the no logs policy flag-bearer, PureVPN, magically retrieved theoretically non-existent logs, which helped to identify the location of the person in question.
Since PureVPN is committed to freedom, and doesn’t support crime, we will only share information with authorities having valid subpoenas, warrants, other legal documents or with alleged victims having clear proof of any such activity.
Now, after the cold shower, let’s see what PureVPN does well:
- AES-256-CBC encryption with an RSA-2048 handshake and SHA-1 hash authenticator. Practically impenetrable.
- 2000+ servers with 300,000+ IP addresses in 140+ countries (virtual and real locations).
- Supported VPN protocols: OpenVPN, Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)/Internet Protocol Security (IPSec), Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP), and Internet Key Exchange version 2 (IKEv2).
- Split Tunneling: a great feature that lets you choose which apps should connect to the internet through the VPN and which can go directly through the ISP.
- WiFi security: automatic protection when your device connects to an unsecured public WiFi
- Port forwarding: mainly useful for P2P and connecting directly to your PC from a remote location.
As you can see, our PureVPN review does find some upsides to look out for. If you can forgive them the occasional DNS and IP address leaks as well as the above-listed reliability issues, you can have one of the cheapest VPNs at your service.
Speed: The fastest VPN, or is it really?
When it comes to PureVPN speeds, we are treading on a controversial field again. Some users say that they are fully satisfied with the download and upload speeds, some are outraged by the slow connections, which may also not be the most stable.
Our tests for this PureVPN review reveal good speeds that are comparable of even better than those offered by market leaders. Our regular connection speed is around 300 Mbps download/upload. Here is the speed when connected to a server in the UK:
This is a US server:
And then, moving further from Europe – Japan:
As you can see, the speeds are good and the drop-off percentages are reasonable. They might not be universal, particularly because PureVPN is known to use some virtual servers instead of real metal ones. This is a known practice – to market and list tropical and off-limit locations like Aruba, Brunei, Macau, Bhutan, and North-Korea, the reason being infrastructural, political, etc.
While we’ve certainly seen worse-performing VPN services in terms of download and upload speed, PureVPN hasn’t convinced us that they’re the fastest on the market. On a more positive note when connecting to most servers on the list, the client connects fast, the speeds are good, and the connections seem reliable.
How to download and install PureVPN
At the risk of stating the obvious, our PureVPN review required us to download and install it – and it was easy! Before you download any supported client through the My Account / VPN Apps menu, it’s good to choose a pricing plan, select your payment method, and make the payment. Then, you also need to sign up for a PureVPN user account so that you can access your client or clients – you can use 5 devices simultaneously with the same subscription.
The PureVPN download page promotes all possible platforms, including Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, Android TV, Kodi, Amazon Firestick, Xbox One, and more. You may also want to install the available PureVPN browser add-ons for Chrome and Firefox, which can come in handy if you want to use PureVPN for Netflix or BBC iPlayer. It seems that you can have better results with the add-ons when wanting to spoof your IP address and stream TV shows. However, if you want “full” privacy, you should always use your VPN client.
There have been numerous complaints about users not being able to login with their clients using their created accounts. We had the same issue but it’s not really PureVPN’s fault, simply the website login credentials and app login credentials are not the same.
Anyway, let’s say you’ve managed to download the PureVPN client and log in.
How to use PureVPN
Before we go into the PureVPN interface, we just need to tell you that this is probably the least professional-looking VPN application we’ve seen. If this app was a person, you wouldn’t give it the time of day. Certainly not what you’d expect from a “new age” 21st century company. This PureVPN review concludes: the application needs a facelift, period.
Of course, the design is not the most important part of a VPN service. Is it easy to use? Does it work properly? These are the questions you need to ask.
Once you are logged in, this application displays five modes to choose from: Stream, Internet Freedom, Security / Privacy, File-sharing, and Dedicated IP (see below).
To be frank, this screen may be a bit confusing. Because, what if I want to stream videos and be secure at the same time? Somehow these preset choices suggest that you will only have online security and privacy if you choose that option.
Of course, this is not true because selecting any of these modes would provide you with a default level of security. Also, you can always change your chosen mode by clicking the link that says “Change Mode” or simply tinker with the Preferences (the little cog icon on the top right) manually.
After you click Next, the Dashboard screen appears and displays a list of current settings (Restricted Websites – Unblocked, Fast Streaming – Enabled, Location, and so on) so that you see how well or inadequately you are protected. This is a very basic screen. You may also see some advertising at the top of this page, which can be annoying and distracting.
As you can see, it is easy to disconnect from your current server or change the preset mode on this screen.
Once you are disconnected, you have the chance to choose another desired location, i.e., the VPN server. It’s unfortunate that you can’t choose a particular server or even a location within a country – you can only choose the country. This is really limiting if you want to stream something and the server PureVPN connects you to is blocked, for example.
You can either choose a desired Country or Purpose, such as Optimized for China, Entertainment Channels, Hulu, Netflix US, and so on.
If you want to change any other settings and preferences, you need to click the aforementioned Preferences icon in the top right corner of your VPN client window. This menu has a number of submenu options:
- User Profile
- App Settings
- Select Mode
- Advanced Options
- VPN Hotspot
- Split Tunneling
- Check for Updates
- Support Ticket
Apart from the Dashboard, you can also choose the Ozone and Gravity features from the main menu in the left panel. Ozone is an advanced firewall that can block malware hiding on your system from accessing the internet. It will also filter out all kinds of content that you don’t want to see when browsing or searching the web. Gravity is an ad-blocker and a safe search feature. With this, you can, again, filter out web content.
Although the PureVPN interface may not be the most trendy one regarding design, it certainly has a lot of options to play around with.
PureVPN for Netflix
Just like in the case of IPVanish, we cannot recommend PureVPN for Netflix fans to avert Netflix detection and geo-blocking. The difference with the former is that while IPVanish clearly and openly doesn’t support Netflix anymore, PureVPN claims that you can use it with Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Kodi as well.
Why does Netflix block VPN at all? Well, in our world that is all about unity and equality for all, it may not relate to web content and information. Naturally, when it comes to TV shows and sports events, they can be geo-blocked due to copyright and other issues. Let’s just say, your government may not want you to see certain types of TV shows with certain content if that is any clearer.
While some may even think that it’s a good thing and these governments simply take care of their law-abiding citizens like a father figure (or rather, a big brother), the internet was originally conceived with the idea to share knowledge without boundaries. However, with the insane growth of content and information on the web, it became more and more clear for governments that this could get out of hand. Their fear may also be well-based, of course.
In any case, this is when a top-notch premium VPN service provider can step into your reality to help you maintain an acceptable level of virtual security and privacy while streaming Netflix shows, using BBC iPlayer, Kodi, downloading/uploading torrents, or whatever your need is.
Although you can find users online who claim (apart from the provider) to use PureVPN for US Netflix and manage to stream HD shows and movies without an issue, there are also those who can’t get through to Netflix with either the Windows or Mac client. Well, we gave the whole thing a shot for this PureVPN review and had very little success.
If you’re looking for a reliable and solid service for streaming TV shows, we would advise you to look further.
PureVPN for Kodi
Yeah, finally, we can confirm something half positive. You can use PureVPN for Kodi. Sigh. But, if you’re wondering what Kodi is, well, it’s basically an open-source software media center that originates from the Xbox Media Center. Kodi allows you to access all kinds of streaming media content (popular TV channels like BBC, iTV, Fox, HBO, and ESPN), including videos and music. To be able to access geo-blocked channels or to keep your identity and activity hidden (from your ISP, hackers, or governments), you need a VPN service to provide you with the best possible level of online security.
Using Kodi is as legal as using VPNs, before you start having doubts unless you are from the EU (where it is termed illegal). But, just like you can use a VPN to stay anonymous while committing online crimes, you can also use Kodi to store or stream pirated content, which is obviously “frowned upon” to say the least. With the various security and privacy issues discussed above, this PureVPN review concludes that it’s not the best tool for those Kodi pirate streams.
PureVPN for Torrenting
Another large portion of the VPN crowd or wannabes is represented by users who want to feel secure while accessing P2P websites for file sharing purposes. Since torrenting has been made illegal or banned in a couple of countries, including the US, UK, and India, due to copyright infringement, users who are caught downloading or uploading files in these countries using torrenting could even be fined or sentenced to jail.
The best security and privacy you can get is using a VPN for P2P file sharing and torrenting. But is it a good idea to use PureVPN for torrenting?
If you want the short answer, we would say no.
Tests for this PureVPN review went rather badly. Tor example, we found that it permits P2P file sharing and torrenting only on some specific servers located in countries like Kenya and Kazakhstan, you are not allowed to use any of the main locations, such as the US, the UK, Canada, and other locations where torrenting is illegal.
Another issue with using PureVPN for torrenting is that the fastest and most secure VPN protocol for P2P file sharing is OpenVPN. However, as we have already discussed, this VPN provider may not be the most reliable when it comes to OpenVPN.
All in all, we must say that PureVPN is not your best choice for torrenting. We recommend that you do some more digging to find the most secure VPN service to use with your BitTorrent client for accessing the best torrent sites like Kickass torrents, Extratorrents, or Torrentz, wherever you are in the world.
“Can I use a free VPN for torrenting?” – you may ask. Well, let’s just say that we would vote dead against it. Why? Because free VPN services are either scams collecting data about you and selling them to third parties, or are provided by otherwise paid services, which, in return, may need to log certain information about you.
Premium VPN service providers like ExpressVPN and NordVPN can do a great job at cloaking your IP and hiding your traffic, too. Remember, when it comes to P2P file sharing, your online security and privacy are of utmost importance. Make the right choice if you don’t want to end up in court and pay a fine of thousands of dollars!
Live chat support
Somehow, we can’t stop using the word “controversial” when describing the PureVPN features. It may not come as a surprise that its live chat support and its general (email and Facebook) customer support, too, leaves a lot to be desired. We don’t doubt, though, that PureVPN is working hard in the background on this issue.
Before talking about the live chat support, let us tell you about a place we visited for this PureVPN review – the Support Center. You can open this dedicated site by selecting the My Account menu on the official site and then, click Support Center. Or, you can scroll all the way down and find it under the Help section.
We can only speak positively about the PureVPN Support Center because it is a nicely designed and very informative knowledge base. Even if sometimes the pages are not very well-written; oops, that wasn’t too positive but true. If you don’t seem to find the solution to your problem, you can also generate and submit a ticket to report it.
Nevertheless, lots of unsatisfied customers have left comments all over the internet, including VPN review sites, such as vpnpro.com, about clunky support. There have been a lot of issues regarding the 7-day money-back guarantee, losing connections, not being able to connect to servers, and the like.
The complaints are usually not about the response speed because the support team is quite quick in fact. But, the usefulness of the information is doubtful. You may simply get automated messages with related links to the PureVPN FAQ pages, which may not help you sort out your problem.
The PureVPN live chat support is really fast. When we enquired about the FBI case and their no logs policy, we got instant replies and helpful support with relating links. Of course, not everyone is this lucky because many users give up after a few rounds with the live support.
You can easily initiate a chat by opening the support chat window in the bottom right corner of your browser page. And, you can chat away right away. Mind you, these support agents may not be technically at the top so it’s possible that your particular issue will not be tackled in the end.
Apps and extensions
As we have already mentioned in this PureVPN review, it boasts VPN clients for all popular platforms:
- Windows, Mac OS
- Android, iOS
- Kodi add-on, Chrome extension, and Firefox extension
- Android TV
- Amazon Firestick TV
Remember to download all the clients you may need since you can establish up to 5 simultaneous connections with 1 subscription. Please note that there might be a few differences between clients. It’s possible that you’ll be able to use the PureVPN browser extensions for Netflix and torrenting but may fail to do so with your main client.
Pricing: Temptingly low
This is the area where our PureVPN review can give a modicum of praise. Here are the pricing plans you can choose from:
- 1-month plan: $10.95 per month
- 1-year plan: $4.15 per month
- 2-year plan: $2.49 per month
- 5-year special plan: $119 ($1.98 per month)
Apart from the 1-month plan, PureVPN offers very low prices for its services. No wonder why many reviewers consider this provider as one of the best values out there. If we compare these prices with premium VPN services, we must say that PureVPN wins this battle. Its 2-year and 5-year plans set the lowest prices for our top 15 best VPNs.
While a free PureVPN version is not available, you can try this VPN software for 3 days by creating a trial account for $2.5. If you want to use it for free, go for the 31-day no-hassle money-back guarantee they offer now — it used to be 7 days with serious limitations. We suggest though that you read the Refund Policy carefully to be on the safe side. We must add that it has changed a lot since the writing of this PureVPN review; and, to the better.
So, make sure you know what you sign up for!
Bottom line of our PureVPN review: Solid controversiality
Based on user reports and our PureVPN review it looks like there are three different realities:
There are users:
- who experience great security, privacy, internet speeds, no technical issues at all as well as fast and helpful customer support;
- who has been using PureVPN for a year or more and are totally satisfied with its speeds even though they do admit that there are connection disruption issues and sometimes they can’t even connect to certain servers;
- who believe – as this PureVPN review does – that it is a total disaster, a scam, with a very tricky 7-day money-back guarantee that makes sure that you will not see your money again, with very slow speeds and the inability to connect to most of the servers, annoying breaks in connection resulting in the disruption of larger file downloads and streaming videos.
It’s true that PureVPN made a serious mistake by promoting itself as a no logs policy flag-bearer and seemingly betrayed its customers, which may be an issue for those users who want absolute online security and privacy. For these users, we would advise looking for a premium VPN service that offers multi-hops and other security features for a higher level of anonymity.
However, if you simply need to spoof your IP address and location to access geo-blocked web content, you may well be satisfied with PureVPN and its amazingly low pricing.
Let us learn from your experience
Have you read our PureVPN review and disagree with our opinion? What are your impressions? Remember, sharing is caring! Please feel free to leave your comment below.