Bargain Bin or Budget Blockbuster?


Rating:

5/10

?

  • 1 – Does not work
  • 2 – Barely functional
  • 3 – Severely lacking in most areas
  • 4 – Functions, but has numerous issues
  • 5 – Fine yet leaves a lot to be desired
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great and worth purchasing
  • 8 – Fantastic, approaching best-in-class
  • 9 – Best-in-class
  • 10 – Borderline perfection

Price:
Starting At $1.99/month

PureVPN's logo on a white background
PureVPN

PureVPN is a provider that’s been around for a long time and advertises as being “the best VPN money can buy” on its site. I took PureVPN through its paces to see if this is true and I was rather disappointed. Though it’s not all bad, claiming it’s the best is stretching the truth.

This is actually a recurring issue with PureVPN: the company promises a lot, some of which a VPN simply cannot do. Examples include claims of being able to protect you from identity theft, which are exaggerated, at best. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth, as it sells a false sense of security, a bad look for a company selling protection software.

Here’s What We Like

  • Cheap
  • Plenty of servers
  • Some success with Netflix

And What We Don’t

  • Buggy
  • Slow
  • Interface needs work

How-To Geek’s expert reviewers go hands-on with each product we review. We put every piece of hardware through hours of testing in the real world and run them through benchmarks in our lab. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product and never aggregate other people’s reviews. Read more >>

Form and Function of PureVPN

A virtual private network (VPN) serves two purposes: to make you appear like you’re somewhere you’re not and to secure your connection while doing so. PureVPN succeeds at this basic test: as far as I can tell, it’s safe to use and successfully spoofs your location. No problems there.

RELATED: ExpressVPN vs. NordVPN: Which Is the Best VPN?

However, extra features and creature comforts can be a little lacking. For example, the desktop client is extremely bare bones and hearkens back a decade or so, when VPNs hadn’t hit the mainstream yet. It does the job, but compared to top-flight competitors like ExpressVPN and NordVPN, it feels very sparse.

PureVPN main screen

Also, using the client feels like PureVPN expects you to know how to use it intuitively, but doesn’t give you the tools to do so. For example, there are no tooltips for the buttons on the side of the screen. The pictograms give you a pretty good idea of what they do, but it’s still weird to mouse over a button and not see a small tooltip.

This carries over into other areas: for example, nowhere in the settings is the kill switch called “kill switch.” Instead, PureVPN calls it an “IKS,” which I assume is short for “internet kill switch,” an acronym I’ve never before seen and doubt I ever will again. What it does is explained well in the menu, but it’s still a bit silly to rename a function like that.

PureVPN killswitch settings

There are a few more examples of little design decisions that make life a little harder for you. They’d be fairly simple fixes, too, I reckon, so hopefully they will be a thing of the past soon.

Technical Issues

Little gripes about the interface can be ignored, of course, but what’s a lot more annoying are the desktop client’s many, many bugs and glitches. Though it hasn’t downright crashed even once, thankfully, the client has bugged out multiple times while using it. I tested it on a virtual machine—which I admit can come with some technical issues—but I’ve never experienced anything like this before.

For no reason I could fathom, the client would occasionally freeze and grow unresponsive before apparently shaking itself awake and working again. Connections could take several minutes to make; at one point I waited five minutes before my VPN was working. At other times, though, the client would work just perfectly, responding quickly, before once again randomly freezing up.

PureVPN connection screen

You never know when the PureVPN client will work, which made for a mediocre user experience.

PureVPN and Netflix

Of course, for many, all this doesn’t matter much if PureVPN can do one very important thing: help you get through to Netflix. My experience was mixed. Like most budget VPNs, it got through some of the time—let’s say about half. That’s a decent result considering how Netflix has stepped up its VPN detection efforts, and it’s not like PureVPN expressly advertises as an unblocker.

If streaming is your top priority, though, you may want to find another provider. Besides speed issues—more on that later—more than once I was stuck playing the server switch game while using PureVPN. There are far better VPNs for Netflix out there.

RELATED: How to Use a VPN for Netflix

Pricing

When advertising as the best VPN that money can buy, pricing is going to be a big part of any discussion of PureVPN’s merits. Sadly, its pricing is typical of the industry, offering discounts for first-time customers but higher prices for returning ones. Like in our Surfshark review, you want to read the fine print before signing up for PureVPN.

RELATED: Surfshark VPN Review: Blood in the Water?

Currently, you can sign up to PureVPN for either one month, one year, or two years—at first, anyway. As with all VPNs, going month-to-month is a waste of money as it’s just way too expensive. Mullvad is an interesting exception as it charges the same per month regardless of how long you sign up for, but it’s one of the very few to do so.

PureVPN prices

The one-year plan is pretty good at $38.95, definitely making PureVPN one of the cheapest VPNs to sign up for. Even better value is the two-year plan, which costs $53.95, and then throws in an extra three months. It’s less than two bucks per month that way, which is a bargain.

However, these deals are only for the first time around. Once you’re up for renewal, your plan defaults to the “real” pricing of $53.95 per year, regardless of whether you signed up for one or two years initially. Though it’s a far cry from the way NordVPN ends the honeymoon (NordVPN almost doubles prices after the initial period), I’m still not a big fan of these kinds of shenanigans.

As for value, PureVPN is definitely at the bottom end of the market. Like most services that offer their VPN at the $50 per year mark, there are issues with speed and usability that you don’t get with more up-market providers. ExpressVPN’s client rarely bugs out, for example; read our ExpressVPN review for more on that.

Privacy and Security

Security and privacy are where you run into some issues with PureVPN. VPNs exist to help people stay hidden while online, yet the company helped the FBI track down a user in 2017. There’s no doubt the user in question was a pretty shady person and the world’s a better place with him behind bars, but the fact that PureVPN volunteered his logs is a massive strike against the company.

However, it’s been five years and PureVPN seems to have cleaned up its act, with an all-new privacy policy and just all-around better protocols. As far as I can tell, your data should be safe to the company, though I don’t like that it—like many other VPNs—doesn’t let you sign up anonymously. Though there is a risk there, I don’t think it’s much worse than with most other VPNs.

RELATED: How to Sign Up for a VPN Anonymously

PureVPN Security

PureVPN also ticks all the right boxes when it comes to security, though it is a big fan of making exaggerated claims on its website. Though VPNs can come in handy against preventing infection by malware, it doesn’t mean you won’t have to worry about it; the same goes for DDoS attacks. It’s disingenuous of PureVPN to claim it will help in these cases.

In practice, PureVPN gets the job done, no more and no less. Every connection I made I tested using IPleak.net and it came up fine. However, one thing I don’t like is how PureVPN defaults to IKEv2, which isn’t a bad VPN protocol as such, but isn’t the best, either. It has been known to occasionally cause issues, though it is, on paper, pretty fast. This neatly brings us to our last section, where we test PureVPN’s speeds.

Is PureVPN Fast?

Speed is an important part of any VPN; after all, if a VPN slows you down badly enough, you can’t use the internet. In this regard, PureVPN isn’t great, even when using the less secure but supposedly fast IKEv2 protocol. I conducted two sets of tests from Cyprus using speedtest.net, connecting to four servers scattered around the world. One set of tests I conducted early afternoon my time (two hours ahead of London), another early in the morning.

RELATED: How to Test Your VPN Speed (and How to Speed up a VPN)

The results were disappointing. The afternoon tests were bad, really bad. A VPN connection just a few miles up the road from me slowed my speeds down to just a quarter, while a connection to the U.K. (3,000km or 2,000 miles away) brought it down to just 10 percent. Take a look at the table below to see the results.

Location Ping Download (Mbps) Upload (Mbps)
Cyprus (unprotected) 20 83 40
Cyprus 60 20 11
United Kingdom 169 7 7
NYC 267 28 5
Japan 599 5 4

The ping was also really bad, as you can see. However, the morning tests were a lot better; the Cyprus server only lost about a quarter of its speed—not great, not terrible—and the U.K. connection only about half. This result, and that of the U.S. server in the afternoon readings, gives me the impression that PureVPN is using mediocre servers or not balancing the load on them right; maybe even a little of both.

This is also borne out by the terrible ping on each connection, irrespective of the time of day. Though for some reason I don’t have the best latency on my own connection, PureVPN’s loss here is inexcusable. For example, ExpressVPN uses TrustedServer technology to guarantee good speeds for customers. We don’t see why others can’t do something similar.

Should You Subscribe to PureVPN?

PureVPN is far from a bad VPN, but it isn’t a very good one, either. For roughly $50 for the first two years, it’s an okay deal, but it may not be worth the slow speeds or buggy interface, especially as you can do better for roughly the same money. For example, Surfshark has much the same pricing schedule, and though I’m not a huge fan of the service, I’d probably recommend it before I would PureVPN.

Alternatively, for a few bucks more, you could get Mullvad, which isn’t as good at streaming, but better in every other way. You could also spend double the money and sign up for ExpressVPN, which is a lot faster and does better at Netflix. Either way, you’re getting a better VPN for your money.

Rating:
5/10

Price:
Starting At $1.99/month

Here’s What We Like

  • Cheap
  • Plenty of servers
  • Some success with Netflix

And What We Don’t

  • Buggy
  • Slow
  • Interface needs work





Source link