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PureVPN review: Have this VPN’s privacy issues been fixed?

Aimee O'Driscoll VPN AND CYBERSECURITY EXPERT

PureVPNAfter running into privacy issues several years ago, Hong Kong-based PureVPN has been focusing on regaining its reputation as a reliable, trustworthy provider.
Improvements include revamping apps, doubling its network size, and enabling access to more geo-restricted streaming platforms.
So with all these changes, how does PureVPN compare to industry leaders such as NordVPN, ExpressVPN and up-and-comer Surfshark? Does it measure up in terms of user experience, performance, as well as other factors?

In my 2020 PureVPN review, I took the desktop and mobile apps for a test drive to see what this provider has to offer. Some of the questions I sought to answer were:

  • Is PureVPN fast?
  • Can PureVPN unblock geo-restricted sites like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Amazon Prime Video?
  • Does PureVPN offer strong privacy and security features?
  • Does PureVPN work in China?

Read on to find out the answers to those questions and many more.

I’ve been using PureVPN to browse, stream, torrent, access public wifi, and play online games. You’ll find a quick summary of my findings below, but you can read the full review to find out more details.

PureVPN summary

PureVPN has decent unblocking potential (although US Netflix may pose issues) and speeds fast enough for streaming HD video. It allows torrenting and doesn’t impose any limits on bandwidth or data.

PureVPN offers an excellent suite of security features and is now a true no-logs provider that makes user privacy a priority. Apps are easy to use and live chat is available, although overall customer support could be improved. PureVPN works in China.

PureVPN key data

OVERALL RANK:  #12 of 49
Speed
Score: 7/10
Average Speed*: 34 Mbps
Video Streaming Support: 4K, HD video conferencing
Streaming
Score: 8/10
Netflix: Yes
Other Streaming Services: Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, Disney+
Security
Score: 9/10
Encryption Type: 256-bit AES
Kill Switch: Yes
Log Policy: No logs
Protocols: OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, SSTP, and IKEv2
Value for Money
Score: 8/10
Lowest Monthly Cost: $0.99
Money Back Guarantee: 31 days
Websitehttps://www.purevpn.com/

PureVPN pros and cons

Pros:

  • Unblocks many streaming platforms
  • Strong encryption
  • Improved no-logs policy
  • Allows torrenting
  • Easy-to-use apps
  • Some fast speeds
  • Connect 10 devices

Cons:

  • Some connectivity issues
  • Support could be better
  • Some features require an additional fee
  • Past privacy issues
  • Doesn’t accept cryptocurrency payments

I’ll provide more detail on each of these pros and cons below.

Speed: Is PureVPN fast?

I saw pretty good results when testing PureVPN for speed and performance. I had no issues watching 4K video on most servers and was able to use HD video conferencing software and play online games with no problems while connected to geographically close servers.

PureVPN has recently ramped up its server network, doubling its size to more than 4,000 servers in over 140 countries. Note that around half of these countries are serviced by virtual servers. This means that the servers aren’t actually located in the country, but still provide you with an IP address from your chosen location.

I did have some issues connecting to some servers, in particular when trying to connect to a US or UK location. Either it would take a long time (around a minute or so) to connect to a server or the connection attempt would appear to time out (although I didn’t get an error notification). Sometimes a successful connection required several attempts. This only appeared to be an issue on the desktop app, but it could be a source of frustration, especially if you tend to switch servers often.

PureVPN Ookla speed test.

I tested three PureVPN server locations at three different times of day. The average speed for all tests was 34 Mbps, which is similar to past performance. This puts PureVPN a little below average when we compare it to other top VPNs.

Speed test results comparison chart.

The servers we tested were located in Europe, North America, and Asia. The average speeds for each location were:

  • North America: 56 Mbps
  • Asia: 27 Mbps
  • Europe: 20 Mbps

Global average: 34.33 Mbps

When connected to nearby servers (in North America), speeds were generally good. As expected, they dropped quite a bit for more distant servers in Europe and Asia. That said, those speeds are still more than ample for most activities, including browsing and streaming. You’d just probably want to stick with nearby servers for more intensive activities such as downloading large files.

Note that these tests can only provide a rough indicator of performance, and the results you see in practice could differ greatly. The internet is generally volatile so speed test results can be quite random. You may see smaller or larger discrepancies in speeds depending on various factors including your base internet speed and how many devices are connected to the internet.

Apps: What devices work with PureVPN?

PureVPN has increased its limit on the number of devices you can connect at a given time, bumping it from five to 10. This is pretty generous considering the industry standard is five or six, and makes PureVPN a good option for families, roommates, or anyone who has a lot of gadgets to protect.

So what devices are compatible with PureVPN? The VPN has apps for the following:

  • Windows 10, 8.1, and 8
  • MacOS 10.10 and above
  • iOS 11.0 or later
  • Android 8.0 and newer
  • Amazon Fire TV

It can be manually configured with Linux systems and some routers. PureVPN browser extensions are available for Chrome, Edge and Firefox, but it’s worth noting that these only protect your browser traffic and leave other apps exposed.

PureVPN apps.

PureVPN is in the process of updating all of its apps, including the iOS version which was unavailable for quite some time. The new mobile apps are live but the updated desktop versions are still in public beta with no confirmed transition date, so I will focus on the existing desktop apps in this review.

The desktop apps are fairly easy to use, although may seem a little cluttered at first. You have the option to select a mode, which seems helpful, but does introduce some confusion.

PureVPN modes.

Modes are:

  • Streaming
  • Internet Freedom
  • Security/Privacy
  • File-Sharing
  • Dedicated IP (a paid add-on)

While most are self-explanatory, the “Internet Freedom” and “Security/Privacy” options don’t seem distinguishable. Indeed, a customer support representative was unable to give me specifics on the differences, and said that they’re “pretty much the same” but with slight configuration differences.

PureVPN server list.

A few handy features of the desktop app are:

  • Ping test: You can run a ping test to determine how far servers are from your location and thus estimate which server will give you better speeds.
  • Favorites: You can add locations to a favorites list by clicking the star to the right of the location name.
  • Server labels: Icons in the server list denote which servers are virtual and which are most suitable for P2P and VoIP calling.
  • Language: PureVPN offers seven language options including Chinese, French, German, and Turkish.

App behavior settings include launching on startup, auto-connecting if the VPN connection drops, and disconnecting in sleep mode.

PureVPN app behavior settings.

Other features I’ll go into further down include split tunneling, a kill switch, a NAT network option, port forwarding, and a choice of protocols.

PureVPN mobile app.

PureVPN’s new mobile app is barebones compared to the desktop versions. You don’t get the various mode options and can simply choose your server based on your location. The only other option within the app is to change your protocol.

Streaming, Netflix, and Kodi

Does PureVPN unblock Netflix?

Yes, PureVPN can unblock a range of Netflix libraries, but may not work with Netflix US. PureVPN’s streaming mode has options for the following Netflix libraries: US, Canada, UK, Australia, Japan, Germany, and France.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me with the popular US and Canadian libraries. For the US, I saw a limited library of Netflix-exclusive content (which is one of Netflix’s new tactics when it detects a proxy). For the Canadian version, I could see the full catalog but I got a proxy error when I tried to play a video. Support was unable to help beyond suggesting I clear my cache and cookies or try the browser extension.

It’s worth noting that at first, I got a proxy error with the German catalog, but on the next attempt (after disconnecting and reconnecting the VPN) I was able to watch, so you may have luck if you’re willing to try a couple of times. The other catalogs listed (UK, Australia, Japan, and France) worked the first time.

PureVPN streaming server list.

PureVPN makes unblocking streaming services very straightforward. In the app, select Streaming mode and you can choose a server based on location or the specific platform you want to unblock.

I also tested PureVPN with Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer, and all worked. Other services PureVPN should work with include Hulu, Foxtel Now, Nine, and Hotstar, among others.

This VPN is compatible with Kodi addons and can be installed on most devices that Kodi runs on.

Does PureVPN allow torrenting?

Yes, PureVPN allows torrenting.

To find a server suitable for P2P, you can select File-Sharing mode or simply look for the P2P symbol against servers on other lists. PureVPN doesn’t impose data caps or bandwidth limits. It offers port forwarding, which can help with torrenting speeds, although you’ll need to pay extra for this feature.

PureVPN torrenting.

The Windows app has a split tunneling feature that diverts only select traffic through the VPN. If you’re worried about slowdowns, you could channel your P2P traffic through the VPN while using your regular connection for other tasks.

Apps have a built-in kill switch that halts your internet connection if the VPN connection drops for some reason. Note that this is disabled by default.

PureVPN kill switch.

Many users have been concerned about PureVPN’s past privacy issues, but its policy has been greatly improved in recent years (more on that below).

See also: Best VPNs for Torrenting

Security, privacy, and logging

PureVPN fares well on the security front and uses 256-bit encryption (considered military-grade) in conjunction with 2,048-bit RSA keys for authentication. You can choose between multiple protocols for encryption, including OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, SSTP, and IKEv2. This option appears in the App Settings tab of the desktop client.

Other security features include:

  • NAT network: You have the option to choose a non-NAT network (which gives you a unique IP address for your session duration) or NAT network (where you share an IP address with other users).
  • Private DNS servers: In the Windows app you can go to Advanced Options > Security and opt to only use PureVPN DNS servers while connected. This is a plus as using public DNS servers means that operators such as your ISP and Google can’t see your DNS requests.
  • Leak protection: We tested for DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leaks, and observed none. The Windows app has an IPv6 leak protection option that is enabled by default.
PureVPN Leak tests
Without HMA

PureVPN is a Hong Kong-based company and as such is not subject to mandatory data retention laws.

In recent years, PureVPN’s reputation has been tainted with reports of storing logs and having a potentially misleading privacy policy. However, the company has been making efforts to recover from this, including rolling out a revised privacy policy.

Privacy policy image.

The subheading for its privacy policies reads:

We do NOT keep any logs that can identify or help in monitoring a user’s activity.

However, details of a 2017 FBI case contradicted that statement, as PureVPN’s logs were reportedly handed over to authorities to aid in a conviction.

Now, this was a criminal case, and it is fairly standard for VPNs to state that they will hand over information to law enforcement if they possess any. The logs in question were not browsing logs, but connection logs. These involve real user IP addresses and VPN connection times. While they don’t reveal actual user activity, they can be matched with logs from third parties, such as email providers, to implicate activity, as was the case here.

Other VPNs keep similar logs, and should disclose this in their terms. With this provider claiming that they keep no logs at all, and then seeing actual logs surface, it understandably unnerved users.

Since this case, PureVPN has been working to rebuild its reputation, including the rollout of a revised privacy policy at the end of May 2018. The company has now scrapped the recording of connection logs of any kind. It won’t record user or VPN IP addresses or timestamps. One positive side of a company being burned in this way is that it will likely tread very carefully to ensure it doesn’t jeopardize user trust again.

PureVPN logging audit.

As a show of good faith, PureVPN underwent a 2019 audit by Altius IT, which verified the new no-logs policy. After detailed evaluation and auditing, Altius IT reported that it didn’t find any evidence that shows PureVPN keeps any data that could identify any specific person or any browsing activity. PureVPN also has an ongoing contract with KPMG, whereby the auditor performs unscheduled assessments of PureVPN’s systems.

Does PureVPN work in China?

Yes, PureVPN works in China.

This VPN can be used to bypass ‘The Great Firewall’ in China. It has a ton of support documentation dedicated to ensuring users in China are able to connect.

Bear in mind that even though many VPNs work in China, their websites may be blocked. If you’re planning to use PureVPN while in China, it may be best to make a copy of the support documentation before traveling as it might be inaccessible from within the country.

Is PureVPN customer service any good?

As a large provider, it’s no surprise that PureVPN comes with a wealth of documentation to help with everything from getting started to troubleshooting and dealing with specific use cases. This can all be found by visiting the Support Center under the My Account tab.

If you can’t find what you need or simply have a quick question, the 24/7 live chat support is ready to give a prompt response. I had mixed experiences with live chat with some confusing or vague responses (an issue I’ve come across in the past), but ultimately, my questions were answered. It is powered by LiveChat, so if you’re looking for additional privacy, you may want to contact the support team directly by submitting a ticket.

PureVPN Live chat support

When I tested this method, the response time was under an hour which is really quick compared to other providers we’ve used.

PureVPN pricing

PureVPN offers one paid plan which differs in price depending on the length of term you sign up for.

PureVPN pricing.

To try the service for one month, it will cost you $10.95. You can get a discount for signing up for six months at $8.33 per month. Finally, there’s a one-year option that costs $69.95, which works out to $5.83 per month. PureVPN used to offer even greater discounts on longer terms but the current one-year plan represents the best deal.

The lowest monthly price is fairly average for a one-year term but it’s higher than the best offers from many other providers, with some top VPNs offering rates lower than $3 per month on two or three-year terms. All plans come with a 31-day money-back guarantee, which is an improvement on the 7-day refund policy of the past.

If you want to try the service before handing over a lump of cash, you can purchase a seven-day trial for a nominal fee of $0.99. This is another improvement as the trial length used to be three days and the fee $2.50.

PureVPN accepts payments via major credit cards and PayPal. It doesn’t accept bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, which may be a disappointment if you’re looking for that extra layer of privacy.

PureVPN coupons

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Do I recommend PureVPN?

Overall, PureVPN is suitable for browsing, torrenting, streaming, and use in China. It provides an easy-to-use interface with several customization options. Performance-wise, speeds are decent, but there were some connectivity issues. PureVPN provides easy access to streaming sites like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, although US Netflix was unreliable. Mobile users will be pleased to see a revamped, intuitive app.

When it comes to security, PureVPN ticks all the boxes with strong encryption, DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 leak protection, and a built-in kill switch. The past bad press around its privacy may be a red flag to some potential users, but this provider has made great strides in this regard.

PureVPN alternatives

While PureVPN has a decent offering, there are some downfalls including connection issues and lackluster support. If you’re open to shopping around for other options, there are plenty of worthy contenders.

NordVPN is a great all-rounder that offers the best speeds out of every VPN we tested and incredibly strong security. It boasts seamless setup and a stellar user experience, including a suite of advanced features. Plus it unblocks a ton of streaming sites with ease and works in countries that actively block VPNs such as China.

Surfshark is a great low-cost alternative if you’re looking for a budget VPN. Offering great speeds, unblocking and a strong privacy policy, Surfshark is still a good choice for privacy-conscious users.

ExpressVPN is another alternative that pegs good speeds and reliable connections. It has a large network of servers, great unblocking abilities, strong security, and top-notch support.

How does PureVPN compare to other popular VPNs?

Here’s a breakdown of how PureVPN compares to two of the most popular services, NordVPN and ExpressVPN.

No valuePureVPNExpressVPNNordVPN
Average Speed37 Mbps329 Mbps369 Mbps
Encryption typeType of encryption e.g. 256 AES256-bit AES256-bit AES256-bit AES
Kill SwitchWindows onlydesktop only
Allows Torrenting
Records identifying logs
Unblocks Netflix US
Unblocks Amazon Prime
Unblocks Hulu
Unblocks BBC iPlayer
Lowest cost per month$1.33 per month$6.67 per month$3.30 per month
Money back guarantee31 days30 days30 days
Overall rating6.59.39.7