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People usually subscribe to a VPN service for specific reasons. They want to stream Netflix outside of the U.S., protect their communications over open Wi-Fi, or participate in file sharing for TOTALLY LEGITIMATE REASONS.
Understanding that’s how people use a virtual private network, PureVPN, officially based in Hong Kong, provides a list of servers based on those common use cases. Instead of asking you where you want to connect and sending you on your way, this service first asks what you want to do. PureVPN provides five options: stream, internet freedom, security/privacy, file-sharing, and dedicated IP—the latter requires an extra fee.
Note: This review is part of our best VPNs roundup. Go there for details about competing products and how we tested them.
The streaming option even goes so far as to ask which website you want to use. PureVPN’s list is quite extensive including the major cable channels, HBO, Netflix U.S., Amazon Prime U.S., as well as options for streaming sites in the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, and India.
For the most part, all of PureVPN’s various functions will allow you to choose from a list of 52 countries. The exception is the file-sharing option, which includes a much larger list of more than 140, though that option is made up mostly of virtual server locations.
By virtual locations we mean that PureVPN doesn’t have physical servers in countries such as Argentina, Mauritius, or Turkmenistan. Instead, the servers are somewhere else such as Brazil, Europe, or North America, but using an IP address for the stated country of origin.
This is standard practice for PureVPN, and the company is not shy about it. There’s an information page on the company’s website explaining what it’s doing. Each virtual location is tagged as such within the desktop apps, as well as on the server list on the website.
In 2017, PureVPN told us it used virtual server locations to bypass low-quality infrastructure in developing countries. That way users can still appear to be in a particular country, perhaps to take advantage of local websites, while still using a robust server backed with higher bandwidth.
Besides marking virtual locations, PureVPN also marks locations that can be used for P2P file sharing, and a phone icon indicates the server will work with VoIP applications.
The rest of PureVPN’s app for Mac is fairly basic. It includes settings such as launching on system startup, which isn’t enabled by default (a nice touch). There’s also an Internet Kill Switch under Advanced Options, as well as an alert that will let you know if you’re not connected to the VPN. Again, both of these options are not enabled by default, which shows a nice respect for user choice. There are also options for adjusting port forwarding, and NAT (network address translation), or non-NAT networks.
PureVPN does log some information, however. For example, it logs the VPN location you connect to but not the IP address. It also logs the length of your connections, but not specific times, as well as tracking how many simultaneous connections your account has at any given time. The company says it keeps this information for technical assistance, as well as general product analytics.
PureVPN’s connections use OpenVPN by default with data encryption handled by AES (either GCM or CBC), data authentication is SHA 1 or SHA256, and the handshake is RSA-2048 with RSA-4096 as a fallback. If OpenVPN doesn’t work the fallbacks are L2TP and IKEv2.
PureVPN costs $70 per year. There is also a six-month plan for $50, or you can pay on a month-to-month basis for $11 per month. As usual for a VPN service, PureVPN wants people to sign up for at least a year by making that option the cheapest by far.
PureVPN requires an email address and password at sign up, which is standard practice. It accepts payments using PayPal, credit cards, crypto currencies via Coin Gate, Alipay, gift cards via Paygarden, as well as a number of other specialty payment services. There isn’t a cash option, but cryptocurrencies at least offer some manner of anonymity since you are paying directly to a cryptocurrency wallet.
As for the company itself, it is officially based in Hong Kong. There are some company employees based there, but most people work remotely. Taking a look at listings on LinkedIn, there are a large number of employees in Pakistan, as well as people in the UAE, Australia, and the U.S. The CEO and founder is Uzair Gadit.
PureVPN is a solid performer overall. In our tests, it maintained about 28 percent of the base speed, which puts it in the mid-range in terms of speed compared to competing services. We found that speeds were excellent for the UK and Germany, a little weak in the U.S., and surprisingly good in Asia and Australia.
Overall, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting a capable connection with PureVPN.
We’d feel better if this service didn’t have an exotic location. As we’ve discussed before, foreign VPNs may make users feel better about avoiding the so-called Five Eyes countries and passive spying on networks, but you often trade off accountability on the part of the VPN. We’re not saying that’s the case here, but it’s always a concern. Furthermore, anybody who’s been watching the news in recent months cannot feel good about Hong Kong as a bastion of personal privacy.
We’re also going to take issue with PureVPN’s pricing at $70 per year. That’s a bit high in our opinion when you can find much cheaper options that also offer extensive streaming options. For this kind of money we’d expect NordVPN-style features such as Double VPNs and TOR over VPN, or extra power-user settings.
Perhaps those features will come in time. If you can catch PureVPN on sale we’d recommend it, especially for Netflix streaming. At $70, however, we’d suggest comparing it to other services at the same price.
Editor’s Note: Because online services are often iterative, gaining new features and performance improvements over time, this review is subject to change in order to accurately reflect the current state of the service. Any changes to text or our final review verdict will be noted at the top of this article.
PureVPN's price is not great, and the exotic business location of Hong Kong does not seem as ideal as perhaps it once did. Still, the desktop app for Mac is usable and helps users decide what they want to do with their VPN service. There are also a few features for power users to dip into, just not as many as with competing services.
- Good speeds
- Easy-to-use interface
- Doesn't log browsing activity
- Uses virtual server locations
- Exotic business location