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PureVPN for Android review: Slick and fast – as long as you pay for it

Our Rating 
Free but up to $10.95 a month for premium

Intrusive ads spoil the free experience, but for paying customers this is a great VPN

Pros 
Exceptionally fast downstream bandwidth
Collects zero data from users
Extra security features
Wide coverage on paid version
Cons 
Annoying full-page ads on free version
Free app has limited coverage
Won't bypass Netflix
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PureVPN is one of the fastest desktop VPNs there is, and the Android app promises to bring the same slick experience to mobile devices. Some extra features are thrown in too, including antivirus, content-filtering and app-blocking features, although the more advanced features are restricted to paying subscribers.

READ NEXT: Best Android VPNs 2018

Free users get 2,048MB of VPN traffic per month; for more, you can pay £2.95 per month for unlimited Android-only VPN services, or $10.95 per month for up to five simultaneous logins across mobile and desktop platforms. There are reductions for longer commitments too, with prices working out as low as $2.88 per month if you choose the $69 two-year plan.

Buy now from PureVPN

Setup and basic use

The app itself is easy to use, with a slick green-and-white design, a one-tap Smart Connect option and a long list of countries and cities accessible from the tabbed menu at the top of the screen. If you prefer, you can alternatively take a goal-oriented approach, and let the software pick a server according to whether your priority is streaming, internet freedom, privacy or file sharing.

Sadly, if you’re using the free service, the client quickly gets annoying to use. Do just about anything and you’re hit with annoying full-page ads, for everything from other apps to US legal firms. Even more annoying, the close buttons don’t always appear in the same place; tapping in the top-right corner will close one ad, but might launch a website from another. We get that it costs money to provide a free service, but this is a really aggravating way to recoup the costs. Needless to say, the ads disappear if you upgrade to a paid-for plan.

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Server locations

It’s easy to tunnel to a wide selection of countries and cities. PureVPN has exit nodes in 140 countries, with multiple points of presence in the UK, Germany, the USA and Canada. The free plan is less flexible, though: it only covers the Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and the USA, which might not be ideal if you live outside those countries, or are looking for a VPN to protect your privacy while travelling.  

Performance


PureVPN’s great strength is its speed. Tunnelling through a UK server reduced my downstream bandwidth by less than 25%; unexpectedly, connecting through the Netherlands was actually faster, with just a 15% performance hit. Even when connecting through a US server I still enjoyed nearly 50% of my standard, non-VPN download speed. If you’re looking for a VPN that doesn’t cripple your connection, this is it.

That said, it’s not always the fastest to connect. On several occasions, on both free and paid-for plans, I sat waiting for 25 seconds or more before my tunnel was established.

When it comes to encrypting traffic and hiding your IP address and location, PureVPN does a pretty good job, but DoILeak.com identified one potential cause for concern: the WebRTC test delivered the same result and IP address both when the VPN was enabled and when it wasn’t. Netflix wasn’t fooled by PureVPN’s geo-spoofing efforts either – damn!

Extra features

While some VPN apps focus on privacy, PureVPN styles itself as much more of a security all-rounder. Its “Gravity” and “Ozone” features claim to block websites with malicious code, and you can additionally pick categories of websites or individual sites to block. While the VPN’s enabled, you can even block ads and filter search results through a Safe Search feature – potentially handy if you’re managing, say, a child’s device.

Privacy and security

PureVPN is based in Hong Kong, which isn’t part of any intelligence-sharing alliance and has no mandatory data-sharing or -retention laws. On top of that, the company has a strict no-logging policy, and assures us that it collects no data whatsoever on user’s surfing habits, the websites they visit or the apps they use. That makes it a great choice if privacy and anonymity are your main concerns.

Verdict

If you’re looking for a free VPN we’d suggest you give PureVPN a miss: its aggressive advertising is just too annoying to live with. The paid-for service is excellent, however. It’s very fast, with an extensive range of server locations, and has some of the strongest privacy guarantees you’ll find. The added security features are the cherry on top of this hugely effective Android VPN.

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