PureVPN has been an established player in the Virtual Private Network space since 2007 and presently serves more than one million customers. I wouldn’t normally lead off an app review with a description of the company, but when one of the primary functions of the app is to protect your privacy, the fact that they have a long track record doing exactly that is of the utmost importance.
On the off chance that any of you are unfamiliar with VPNs, the short explanation is that by routing your online activity through a server, they will obscure your location and whatever you are doing online regardless of whether you are operating over WiFi from work, home, a public network or even over your wireless carrier.
Classic use cases beyond a generic desire for privacy in whatever you choose to do on the internet include accessing websites blocked by your work/school network, covering torrenting (be it legal or illegal) and accessing region-locked streaming content.
Armed with the knowledge of why you might want a VPN in the first place, let’s move to the specifics of PureVPN.
The app is free in the Play Store and once you have it downloaded, signup only takes about a minute. You are issued a username and password by PureVPN that will be used to sign into the app. There is a free level of service that lets you use up to 500MB (900MB if you complete a few social media activities) with a choice between three of their servers (USA, Sweden and the Netherlands), but you aren’t going to be streaming video or downloading many files with that cap. To unlock unlimited bandwidth and access to the rest of their servers you just need to open up the menu in the upper-right corner of the app and select “Buy Now.” You can opt for a monthly subscription for $4.99 or an annual subscription for $39.99.
Once you are logged in, PureVPN is dead simple to use. There is a gauge at the top of the screen that displays how much bandwidth you have left in your monthly allotment (again, for paid users this is unlimited), your IP address, your location, the location of the server you would like to connect to and finally a big green button labeled “Connect.”
As soon as you hit that green button the app connects to the currently selected server — it typically takes about 10 seconds to connect — and then your IP address and location will change to match that server location. At this point you simply exit the PureVPN app and go about your business as normal. A small key icon in the notification area will let you know that the PureVPN app is still working in the background. When you want to switch it off you just return to the app and click the orange “Disconnect” button at the bottom of the screen.
The full list of servers (87 countries in total) can look a little daunting when you first open it by tapping the small server shaped icon next to the last selected country, but PureVPN lets you filter that list by purpose. Some are fairly obvious, like the United Kingdom server to access BBC iPlayer and BBC Sports Streaming, but I would have had no idea which server to select for file sharing or maximum security and anonymity. This functionality was a recent addition to the app and makes the process considerably more straightforward for the novice VPN user.
One fairly consistent critique of VPNs is that they offer slow connection speeds. This could naturally preclude usage for streaming HD video, one of the more compelling use cases for a VPN in the first place. After over a week of testing with PureVPN I can say that I never had any buffering or issues with HD video playback through Netflix or BBC iPlayer.
I tested Netflix thoroughly across servers in multiple countries as the ability to access an extended library of Netflix content seems a remarkably useful option for cord cutters. To be clear, the download speeds through PureVPN are slower (3-5Mbps) than my standard connection (25-30Mbps), but given the use cases for the VPN, this shouldn’t present an issue.
With our audience, this is likely to be a bigger deal than for the average user, but PureVPN can be installed and running on up to five of your devices. That includes PCs, Android and even iOS.
I’ve been looking into VPNs for the last several months, but simply never managed to pull the trigger on one, which is why I was very interested in reviewing PureVPN when the opportunity presented itself. After just over a week testing the app for this review, I’m sold on the idea of using a VPN and on PureVPN specifically. As I mentioned early on in the review, the app is just so easy to use that it takes no time at all to jump in and out and be back to work or watching a video. If you opt for the full year plan you are looking at just over $3 a month, and whether you are going to use it to extend your cord cutting options, to keep yourself secure, to ensure your privacy or to get around blocked sites, that seems like a small price to pay.