If you‘re looking to stay secure online, chances are you‘ve considered signing up for a Virtual Private Network – or VPN. VPNs encrypt your internet traffic and hide your IP address. This prevents snooping by cybercriminals or even your internet provider.
But with hundreds of VPN services out there, how do you decide? In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll compare two of the top options – ExpressVPN and PureVPN.
I‘ve extensively tested and used both VPNs myself. Here‘s how the two stack up across these key factors:
- Speed and reliability
- Pricing and plans
- Privacy protections
- Security features
- Ease of use
- Streaming and torrenting abilities
- Customer support
By the end, you‘ll know whether blazing fast speeds are worth paying more for with ExpressVPN. Or if PureVPN‘s rock bottom pricing makes it the smarter budget pick. Let‘s get started.
Overview of ExpressVPN and PureVPN
First, here‘s a high-level view of each VPN before we dive into the details:
ExpressVPN is one of the most widely-used premium VPNs. Users consistently report fast connection speeds, reliable access to streaming sites like Netflix, and excellent customer service.
The network has over 3,000 servers in 94 countries. Supported platforms include Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and routers.
Downsides are the relatively high monthly cost and only allowing 5 simultaneous device connections.
PureVPN takes the opposite approach as a budget-first VPN. The service costs as little as $1.99/month for multi-year plans.
You also get access to over 6,500 servers in 78 countries. And can connect up to 10 devices simultaneously.
The main complaints with PureVPN are slower speeds and less polished apps. But for basic VPN use, PureVPN still delivers privacy at a very low price.
Now let‘s explore how these VPNs compare across the factors you should consider when choosing a VPN.
Once you turn on a VPN, you‘re routing your internet traffic through additional servers – often in another country. This usually leads to some degree of reduced speeds.
For tasks like 4K video streaming or competitive online gaming, speed is critical. Even for basic web browsing, slower speeds quickly lead to frustration.
To determine real-world speeds, I perform multiple tests connected to nearby and distant VPN servers during peak and off-peak hours. Here‘s how ExpressVPN and PureVPN compared in my testing:
|Server Location||PureVPN Speed||ExpressVPN Speed|
|New York, USA||Download: -51%
|London, UK||Download: -77%
|Sydney, Australia||Download: -73%
Across the board, ExpressVPN maintained faster download and upload speeds compared to PureVPN‘s servers. ExpressVPN‘s speeds were 41-62% faster for downloads and 17-42% faster for uploads.
That‘s a massive difference, especially when streaming or downloading large files. For example, ExpressVPN limited the speed drop on a nearby New York server to just 28% slower than my base speed.
But PureVPN saw crippling slowdowns of 51-77% on distant servers. At those speeds, streaming becomes unreliable and web pages will lag constantly.
There are a few possible reasons for ExpressVPN‘s speed advantage:
ExpressVPN has more servers located in optimal spots close to major cities and high-speed fiber lines. This results in less latency and lag.
The custom Lightway VPN protocol built by ExpressVPN seems to offer much faster speeds compared to standard protocols like OpenVPN.
PureVPN appears to place less emphasis on optimizing servers for speed and reducing congestion on their network.
So if your primary concern is maintaining fast speeds for gaming, streaming, and browsing, ExpressVPN is the clear winner. The difference is truly noticeable compared to PureVPN.
Pricing and Plans
Secondly, let‘s discuss the pricing and subscription plans offered by each VPN. Cost is often one of the top considerations for consumers.
Here‘s an overview of the plans:
|PureVPN lowest price||ExpressVPN lowest price|
|1 month plan||$10.95/mo||$12.95/mo|
|6 month plan||N/A||$9.99/mo|
|1 year plan||$3.33/mo||$8.32/mo|
|2 year plan||$2.08/mo||N/A|
|3 year plan||$1.99/mo||N/A|
*Prices current as of August 2022
At first glance, PureVPN has a substantial price advantage – especially when signing up for 2-3 years. The 3-year plan brings the monthly cost down to only $1.99.
ExpressVPN doesn‘t quite match that, with their 1-year plan priced at $8.32/month as the best value.
So if low cost is your absolute top priority, PureVPN is the cheapest choice. Just be prepared to commit for 2-3 years to realize those savings.
However, ExpressVPN deserves credit for their flexible 6-month plan at $9.99/month. Many users feel 1-2 years is too long to pre-pay. And ExpressVPN offers rock solid privacy for under $10/month.
Lastly, both VPNs back their plans with a 30-day money back guarantee. So you can get a no-risk trial period with each.
Now let‘s dig into the core VPN mission – keeping your online activity private. Here are some key privacy protections offered by each provider:
No activity logs: Both ExpressVPN and PureVPN maintain strict no-logging policies. They do not record browsing history, traffic data, IP addresses, or other personal usage details. The few temporary technical logs that are maintained are deleted after a short window.
3rd-party audits: To provide assurance around those no-logging policies, ExpressVPN and PureVPN have undergone independent audits by firms like KPMG and Althius. The audits verified no sensitive activity logs are kept.
Server locations: ExpressVPN has servers in 94 countries compared to PureVPN‘s 78 country footprint. More server locations means you can better spoof your location anywhere in the world.
Onion over VPN: For added anonymity, ExpressVPN offers onion routing over the VPN connection via the Tor network. PureVPN does not currently support running VPN and Tor together.
Jurisdiction: Both VPN providers are based in the British Virgin Islands. This jurisdiction has no data retention laws and a strongly privacy-friendly approach.
For core privacy protections like encryption, no activity logs, and offshore jurisdiction, ExpressVPN and PureVPN are on equal footing. Both will effectively shield your browsing history and data from prying eyes.
In addition to privacy, a VPN must provide a secure, encrypted connection to keep your data safe from cyberattacks. Here are some of the key security features offered by each VPN:
Encryption: ExpressVPN and PureVPN support AES 256-bit encryption to scramble your internet traffic. This military-grade encryption is considered unbreakable by cyber experts.
VPN protocol: ExpressVPN offers their own Lightway protocol plus OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec. PureVPN also provides OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec. All are highly secure protocols.
Kill switch: ExpressVPN provides an internet kill switch that blocks all network traffic if the VPN disconnects unexpectedly. PureVPN has a kill switch in their desktop apps but not at the device level.
DNS/IPv6 leak protection: Both VPN services ensure no DNS or IP leaks happen if the VPN connection drops, to prevent exposing your IP address or location.
Split-tunneling: Allows selecting which apps send traffic through the encrypted VPN tunnel versus outside the tunnel. Supported on both ExpressVPN and PureVPN.
When it comes to rock-solid security protections, both VPN providers satisfy experts like myself. The combination of unbreakable encryption, secure protocols, and leak protection is critical.
However, ExpressVPN goes a bit further with their full Network Lock kill switch. And they have more dedicated servers rather than PureVPN‘s mostly virtual server network. So ExpressVPN gets a slight security edge.
Ease of Use
Once you decide on a VPN service, actually using it on a daily basis should be straightforward. Here‘s how ExpressVPN and PureVPN compare when it comes to usability:
App setup: Both offer simple VPN apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux. Connecting only takes a click or two. ExpressVPN has the more polished and appealing app design in my experience.
Changing servers: You can easily switch server locations within the VPN app‘s interface. PureVPN makes it a bit simpler to identify streaming-optimized servers.
Router installation: The setup guides provided to install your VPN on a router or other network device are basic. A bit confusing for novice users but ExpressVPN‘s guides are more detailed.
Account management: ExpressVPN offers a web-based account dashboard for easy management and downloads. PureVPN lacks a web portal but account settings can be changed in the desktop apps.
Streaming service access: Unblocking popular sites like Netflix and BBC iPlayer was hassle-free with both ExpressVPN and PureVPN. But PureVPN requires contacting customer support to enable streaming on certain devices like Amazon Fire Stick.
Speed optimization: ExpressVPN has a speed test feature built into the app dashboard to identify the fastest servers. PureVPN doesn‘t offer speed measurement tools.
Other features: ExpressVPN supports advanced features like split tunneling but only on Windows devices. PureVPN keeps things simple with fewer extra tools for power users.
For basic VPN setup and use, PureVPN and ExpressVPN both provide straightforward apps and experiences. But ExpressVPN pulls ahead in terms of usability thanks to speed testing, intuitive server switching, and the web account dashboard.
Streaming and Torrenting Abilities
Two common VPN uses are accessing geo-restricted streaming content and downloading torrents safely. Here‘s how the services stack up for streaming and P2P:
Netflix: ExpressVPN and PureVPN can successfully unblock US Netflix. During my testing, ExpressVPN provided more consistently fast Netflix streams in HD quality.
BBC iPlayer: Both work reliably to access UK-only shows on BBC iPlayer. The same speed advantage goes to ExpressVPN for buttery smooth BBC streaming.
Sports streaming: Accessing geo-blocked sporting events also functions correctly. Again, ExpressVPN‘s extra speed capacity enables smoother 1080p and 4K sports streaming.
Torrenting: PureVPN and ExpressVPN permit P2P filesharing on designated torrenting servers. ExpressVPN allows torrenting on all 3,000+ servers for more flexible options.
Kodi: You can install Kodi on a device like Amazon Fire TV Stick and use either VPN service to safely stream copyright-infringing add-ons.
Gaming: ExpressVPN holds a strong edge for online gaming thanks to faster speeds and lower latency to provide smooth, lag-free play. PureVPN‘s slower performance can hinder gaming responsiveness.
Both VPN work well for streaming and torrenting. But ExpressVPN pulls ahead thanks to the faster speeds and low latency that enhances streaming quality and gaming performance.
Customer Support Comparison
Finally, let‘s examine the all-important customer support. Even a simple VPN can occasionally have connection problems or technical issues arise:
Live chat: ExpressVPN and PureVPN both offer 24/7 live chat support on their websites. Average wait times are about 1 minute for ExpressVPN vs 3-5 minutes for PureVPN.
Support tickets: Submitting email tickets elicits an initial response within 12 hours from PureVPN and under 6 hours from ExpressVPN in my experience.
Response quality: PureVPN‘s agents seem more inconsistent – some very helpful responses and some canned copy-pastes. ExpressVPN provides consistently knowledgeable support.
Setup guides: Both have useful setup guides and video tutorials for installing the VPN on different devices. ExpressVPN‘s articles tend to provide better details.
User forums: Neither VPN currently offers community discussion forums for peer support from fellow users.
Refund policy: Each VPN backs their service with a 30-day money back return period. Returns are processed quickly if requesting a refund.
When it comes to getting help from the customer support team, ExpressVPN is superior. With faster live chat, more consistently helpful responses, and detailed setup guides, you‘ll have an easier time resolving any VPN issues.
Summary: Choose ExpressVPN for Premium Performance
So which VPN provider comes out on top in this in-depth comparison?
PureVPN is a solid budget VPN option if you‘re looking to save money. The network of 6,500+ servers offers wide coverage to spoof locations and unlock streaming. Performance is sufficient for SD and HD streaming. And plans start at only $1.99/month.
However, ExpressVPN is the clear winner in this battle for the best overall VPN. The remarkably fast connection speeds blow away PureVPN. You‘ll enjoy frustration-free 4K and gaming that stays smooth and responsive.
On top of that, ExpressVPN excels at unblocking geo-restricted streaming content anywhere in the world. And provides an easy-to-use experience across mobile, desktop, and router platforms.
Yes, ExpressVPN comes at a higher price. But the blazing speeds and premium performance justify the added cost for most users including myself. If speed is your priority, ExpressVPN dominates as the top choice.