A VPN helps protect your privacy by routing all your internet traffic through a remote server managed by the VPN company. PureVPN has an enormous and widely distributed collection of servers, making it a solid choice for frequent travelers and anyone that needs to spoof their location. We’re also impressed with its redesigned app, which is smarter and snazzier than ever, and its affordable array of add-ons, such as port-forwarding and dedicated IP addresses. But we are confused by its privacy policies, concerned about its convoluted pricing, and disappointed that it doesn’t offer additional privacy features, such as multihop connections.
How Much Does PureVPN Cost?
PureVPN does not offer a free version of its product. If that’s an issue for you, consider the numerous excellent free VPN services on the market. Editors’ Choice winner ProtonVPN offers the best free subscription we’ve seen, with no limitations placed on data usage.
PureVPN costs $10.95 per month, which is just a smidge above the $10.11 per month average we’ve seen across the VPNs we’ve reviewed. That’s more affordable than Editors’ Choice winner Surfshark VPN, which costs $12.95 per month, but many VPNs are cheaper. Editors’ Choice winner Mullvad VPN costs just €5 ($5.88 at time of writing).
Like most VPNs, PureVPN offers long-term subscriptions at a reduced rate. However, PureVPN goes an uncomfortable step further by raising that discounted rate on the first subscription renewal. For example, you can buy an annual subscription for $44.88, but it will renew a year later for $69.96. It’s even more confusing for PureVPN’s two-year subscription, which costs $69.84 for two years, and then $69.95 for every year after that. This is all spelled out small type on PureVPN’s purchase page, and it’s not the only VPN we’ve seen that changes renewal rates, but this is distressingly close to a bait and switch. Be careful about which plan you select at signup.
The average annual cost of a VPN we’ve seen is $70.96, which makes PureVPN a decidedly average deal. We caution against starting with a long-term plan in any case, however. Buy a short subscription so you can try out the VPN in your home and with all the sites and services you use. Knowing that a VPN works for you before committing will save you even more money in the long run.
PureVPN accepts payments via credit card, Bitcoin (and other cryptocurrencies), and PayPal. Editors’ Choice winners Mullvad VPN and IVPN offer truly anonymous cash payments made directly to their respective HQs.
What You Get for Your Money
With PureVPN, you can connect up to ten devices simultaneously with a single account. That’s double the average, and likely covers every device in even a large household. However, the industry may be changing on this point, as an increasing number of VPNs let go of such restrictions entirely. Avira Phantom VPN, Encrypt.me VPN, Ghostery Midnight, IPVanish VPN, Surfshark VPN, and Windscribe VPN place no limit on the number of simultaneous connections.
(Editors’ Note: Encrypt.me and IPVanish are owned by Ziff Davis, which also owns PCMag.)
Some VPNs route your traffic through the Tor anonymization network, making it much harder for snoops to track you online but at a hefty performance cost. Other competitors offer multihop connections, which guide your web traffic through at least two VPN servers for additional security. While PureVPN provides essential VPN protection, it does not include additional privacy features like these.
PureVPN does provide split tunneling, however. This lets you select specific traffic to go through the VPN. That way, you can keep some activities secure and allow more data-hungry but less sensitive functions to get all the access they need. Editors’ Choice winners NordVPN and ProtonVPN are notable for being among the very few VPN services that offer multihop, split tunneling, and access to Tor.
PureVPN also offers software for streaming devices such as Android TV and even Kodi systems. The company has instructions on how to configure a router to use its VPN—meaning all the devices on your network would route their traffic through the VPN.
Although VPNs are useful tools for easily improving your privacy, they won’t protect against every threat. We strongly advise readers to create unique passwords for every account with a password manager, enable multifactor authentication wherever it is available, and use dedicated antivirus software.
What Add-Ons Does PureVPN Offer?
If you’re itching to get more out of your PureVPN subscription, the company offers add-ons for additional monthly fees. It’s a hefty collection of options, almost rivaling TorGuard VPN in its breadth. To its credit, PureVPN provides helpful explanations of each option.
Dedicated IPs are unique IP addresses assigned only to you that may be less likely to be blocked than the IP addresses used by PureVPN’s core service. PureVPN offers dedicated IPs from Australia, Canada, Germany, Malta, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Singapore for $2.99 per month. This is significantly less expensive than other VPNs, which typically charge around $5 per month for dedicated IP addresses.
Port Forwarding is a rarely seen and advanced feature that lets you route traffic to a specific network port. PureVPN will enable port forwarding for 99 cents per month. The company also bundles dedicated IPs and port forwarding for $3.49 per month.
For $3.99 per month, PureVPN will enable DDoS protection. This prevents attackers from flooding you with bogus traffic. This may be useful for competitive gamers whose opponents may try to knock them offline with a DDoS attack.
Other companies are starting to expand their portfolios beyond VPNs. NordVPN offers a password manager and encrypted storage for additional fees, and Hotspot Shield VPN offers free access to several security and privacy services. PureVPN remains purely a VPN.
There is also a business version of PureVPN, priced on a per-seat basis. It’s $8.45 per person per month, but pricing may vary depending on the size of the organization and its specific needs.
VPN technology has been around for a long time, and there’s more than one way to create an encrypted tunnel. We prefer the open-source options: the stalwart OpenVPN and the newcomer WireGuard. Both are available to be picked over for any potential vulnerabilities.
PureVPN supports several VPN protocols, but support varies significantly by platform. Its Windows app supports OpenVPN and another good protocol, IKEv2, while its macOS app supports IKEv2 and IPSEC. The iOS app supports OpenVPN, IKEv2, and IPSEC, but the Android version only supports OpenVPN and IKEv2. On Linux, PureVPN only supports OpenVPN.
Servers and Server Locations
The more server locations a VPN offers, the more likely you are to find a fast and reliable connection when you travel abroad. Numerous server locations also means more choices for spoofing your location.
PureVPN currently offers users servers across 139 countries. Its reach is truly impressive and is perhaps its best-selling point. It covers North America and Europe as well as any other VPN but goes much further with six locations in Africa and seven locations in Central and South America. These regions are often completely ignored by the competition. PureVPN even manages to outstrip ExpressVPN, which we often point to as the globe-trotter’s best choice for VPN.
The list of server locations also includes some with notably repressive internet policies, such as Turkey and Vietnam. Notably, PureVPN does not offer servers in mainland China, Hong Kong, or Russia.
PureVPN achieves this global coverage partly through its use of virtual locations. These are servers configured to appear somewhere other than where they are physically located. Of the 139 entries on its server list, PureVPN says that 21 are virtual locations. This practice is not necessarily problematic, and it sometimes allows VPN companies to provide coverage to an unsafe area by housing their servers in a safer location. Still, PureVPN should be more transparent about where these servers are located.
Virtual servers are software-defined, meaning that a single hardware machine can host multiple virtual servers. PureVPN tells us it only uses physical servers. Most of this infrastructure is leased and not owned outright by PureVPN, which is not unusual. In total, PureVPN boasts some 6,500 servers which rivals CyberGhost’s 7,300 servers.
Some VPNs such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN have moved to diskless or RAM-only servers. These machines do not write data to disk, making them resistant to physical tampering. PureVPN has not taken this step but tells us it has taken steps to secure its infrastructure from attack.
Your Privacy With PureVPN
Especially confusing is how the company explains what information it gathers about users’ connections. The policy says that it does not store IP addresses, assigned VPN IP addresses, session timestamps, DNS requests, or (most importantly) browsing activities. That’s great. Later, however, the policy says PureVPN does know the day of each connection, how long the connection lasted, how much data was consumed, and the VPN location used—it just doesn’t use timestamps or IP addresses to do it.
PureVPN explained to us that while it has some of this information for the duration of the connection, not all of it is saved, and none of it can be connected to a specific customer. The company referred us to an audit from KPMG that says PureVPN does not log identifiable information on users. PureVPN tells us that the terms of the audit prevent them from sharing the results publicly.
Still, that’s quite a bit of information for PureVPN to gather and to hold. PureVPN should strive to gather and retain even less information. The company should also clarify its policy.
The policy goes on to say that the company does not share or rent any personal information customers supply. A company representative for PureVPN told us that the company only gathers revenue from subscription sales. The company is also unequivocal that it has no insight into customer browsing activity. This is all excellent.
PureVPN is incorporated under the British Virgin Islands and operates under that country’s legal jurisdiction. The company says it has team members working in Hong Kong, Karachi, and Toronto.
Some VPNs have started commissioning third-party audits to establish their privacy bona fides. Editors’ Choice winner TunnelBear VPN, for instance, has committed to releasing the results of annual audits. Admittedly, audits are imperfect tools, but we consider them a valuable demonstration of a company’s commitment to protecting its customers. PureVPN says that it has been audited by Altius IT, and provided us with information on the results, but does not include a link to the audit for customers. We’d like to see the full text made available.
A transparency report typically includes the number of information requests a company has received from government agencies and law enforcement. PureVPN recently overhauled its transparency report to show those requests, which we appreciate. However, it still does not clearly indicate how PureVPN responded to these requests. Previously, the company told us us it did not comply with any of them, but this information should be included in the report.
Hands On With PureVPN
We had no trouble installing PureVPN on our Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7BEH (Bean Canyon) desktop running the latest version of Windows 10. One note: PureVPN auto-checks a box in the installer that will also install the Chrome PureVPN Proxy extension. Browser proxy extensions can be useful, but we don’t like anything that installs additional applications. PureVPN should remove this or make it an opt-in option.
PureVPN has revamped their client app since the last time we reviewed it, and we’re very happy with the results. Once you log in, you’re greeted with a large Connect button that will immediately get you online with what PureVPN thinks is the best server for you. We really like this straightforwardness, as will new VPN users. We also dig the subtle purple highlights of the app’s design. That said, it’s still not as friendly or streamlined as TunnelBear VPN.
Smart design continues into the server selector. On the right you see a list of available countries, and you can open these to see available cities. Unfortunately, PureVPN won’t let you pick specific servers. On the left of the screen, PureVPN shows any dedicated IPs you have available, favorite servers, recently used servers, and the servers the app recommends. We really like how clearly the app organizes all the relevant server information onto a single screen. Other companies should look to this design for inspiration.
From the Settings, you can manually select the VPN protocol you’d like the app to use. By default, it will select what it thinks works best. The app also includes a Kill Switch that will block all internet traffic should the VPN be accidentally disconnected. We weren’t able to test this feature. You can also configure PureVPN to automatically launch at startup, and automatically connect to a specified server on launch.
There’s also a setting for Split Tunneling, which is a little confusing. To turn on split tunneling you have to toggle the feature off and then select the apps you want to use the VPN—all other traffic will travel in the clear. This is backward from what we’d expect. Also confusing is that the picker to select an app is just a File Explorer window, so you have to already have a firm grasp of where Windows stores its executable files. PureVPN should rework this feature.
Because you can use a VPN to hide or spoof your location, many streaming services attempt to block VPN traffic. In our testing, we found that PureVPN could stream content from Netflix, but only a subset of movies and shows. That’s disappointing.
To protect your privacy, your VPN should not leak DNS requests. We tested a PureVPN server using the DNS leak test tool. We confirmed that PureVPN successfully changed our public IP address and did not leak our DNS information. This test only validates the server we used in testing. Other servers may not be correctly configured.
Speed and Performance
Regardless of what VPN you use, your internet speed will likely take a hit. This typically means a decrease in upload and download speeds and an increase in latency. To get a sense of those changes, we run a series of tests using the Ookla speedtest tool while the VPN is connected and when it is not. We then find a percent change between the two sets of results. For more on how we test VPNs, see our titular article on the subject.
(Editors’ note: Ookla is owned by PCMag’s publisher, Ziff Davis)
In our tests, we found that PureVPN reduced download and upload speed test results by 83.9% and 82.1%, respectively. These results were both significantly worse than the median results we saw across the products we’ve tested thus far. PureVPN had better latency results, increasing latency by 49.6%.
You can see how PureVPN compares to the other VPNs we’ve tested in the chart below. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we have limited access to the PCMag Labs and have switched to a rolling testing model. We’ll update the results below as we test more products throughout the year.
Bear in mind that VPN speeds are highly variable, so your results will likely differ from ours. Therefore we discourage using speed as the primary factor when choosing a VPN. Instead, we focus on cost, features, and privacy protections.
Times Have Changed
The company needs to make its practices clearer to customers and should strive to collect less information from its customers as well. We’d also like to see PureVPN revamp its transparency report to reflect its responses with to enforcement and governments and release the results of all its third-party audits. All the pieces for PureVPN to become a truly transparent company are here, they just need to be put together properly.
We’re also concerned about its pricing model, which has some subscription prices increasing drastically after the first billing cycle. PureVPN should make this clearer to customers or dispense with it all together. Lastly, PureVPN would benefit from including additional privacy tools such as multihop connections.
That said, much of PureVPN’s recent evolution is for the better. We are impressed with its snazzy redesign, and happy to see the size of its VPN server network. The company also deserves praise for the variety and low price of its add-ons. For now, we continue to recommend our Editors’ Choice winners, especially ProtonVPN and Mullvad VPN. Both offer robust and transparent privacy policies and cost significantly less than PureVPN.