Private Internet Access Review Summary
Private Internet Access provide a comprehensive VPN service focusing heavily on user choice and security. Their Android app gives notably great protection for public WiFi networks, and the service is overall priced very reasonably indeed.
Pricing & Plans
Private Internet Access offer three pricing plans for their service, which differ only in the monthly cost and total subscription period. Subscribing for one month is $6.95 – a more reasonable monthly figure than many providers out there – while subscribing for a whole year pushes the monthly cost down to only $3.33. As VPNs go, that’s impressively cheap for what’s on offer.
We created a video review for Private Internet Access:
Private Internet Access is based in the US and is a subsidiary of London Trust Media Inc., a fact about which it’s refreshingly open. Servers are offered in 29 locations across 24 countries including the US, Europe and Australia, with nearly 3000 servers available in total. Users are allowed up to five simultaneous connections to the VPN from any combination of devices.
Security & Privacy
Private Internet Access provider users with access to their VPN via OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec and PPTP. A range of protocols and encryption strengths is available, with OpenVPN (rightly) being the focus and offering up to AES-256 for datastream encryption, SHA256 for data authentication and RSA-4096 for handshaking. Freedom of user choice is a big part of what Private Internet Access stands for, so users are free to choose their preferred type and level of encryption in the client options, and there’s a page on the website dedicated to helping users choose the right one for them.
The company’s policy of keeping no user logs whatsoever goes a long way towards mitigating the fact of their being based in the USA. Torrents and filesharing are explicitly permitted on all servers.
Users can access support most easily through the live chat service on the website, though we were disappointed that doing so requires entering a name and email address. An ETA is displayed while you wait for a support agent, and though we had to wait a little longer than we’d expect – around five minutes – to talk to someone, we found the agents we did eventually speak to were knowledgeable and helpful.
How you become a user of Private Internet Access’ service depends on how you want to pay for it. Gift cards and bitcoin are completely anonymous, requiring only an email address, whereas paying by credit card requires entry of a complete billing address. Once payment is complete, new users are sent an email with the username and password they can use to connect to the VPN, as well as some helpful info such as where to find and how to install the client. It’s also possible to log in to the website and change the password if you prefer.
The Private Internet Access Windows VPN client
Private Internet Access provides one of the most functional clients we’ve seen, with particular standouts being the easy to access options for encryption and handshaking as well as DNS leak protection and a killswitch to disable users’ internet when the VPN disconnects. There’s an option to connect via TCP instead of UDP which is great for users of open WiFi hotspots. Options to launch and connect on Windows startup are presented right below the login area rather than hidden away in an options screen. Generally the options areas are easy to access and understand, and we appreciated the simplicity and ease of use of the interface.
While it’s not the most picturesque client we’ve ever seen, it still manages to be fairly easy to use and offers the user a wealth of great options without being messy or bulky.
Performance (Speed, DNS and IP Test)
With high expectations after such a great client, we found the speed tests for Private Internet Access to be generally pleasing. Connecting to the nearest UK server, most of our tests achieved results around the 25Mbps mark, which is around 85% of our 30Mbps test connection; results while connected to the US were only a hair lower than our non-VPN results to the same server. Connection times were generally OK, with most of being accomplished successfully within a small handful of seconds but some taking well over a minute to settle on a stable connection.
|UK test, no VPN.||UK test, UK server.||US test, US server.|
DNS and IP checks were rock solid, with Private Internet Access making use of their own DNS servers, and the built-in DNS leak protection doing its job admirably to prevent our Windows test system spilling out unshielded requests to our ISP.
Private Internet Access provide clients for Mac OSX, Android and iOS as well as Windows. Although the iOS app uses L2TP, setup guides are provided for using PIA’s service with the open-source OpenVPN Connect app, allowing iOS users access to the more secure OpenVPN protocol in the process.
Android users get a native OpenVPN-capable app with OpenSSL which provides one of the most secure and impressive suite of options we’ve seen on the platform. As with the Windows client, there’s the built-in internet killswitch and options to specify type and level of encryption. There’s also the very welcome option to start the client on boot and connect automatically. Combined with the killswitch and the option to connect via TCP instead of UDP, the Private Internet Access Android client is a complete solution for protecting frequent users of open WiFi hotspots where often security is already compromised before a user can even get their VPN client to connect. The obvious improvement we’d like to see to this already excellent combination of features would be the option to define which networks to protect with the VPN, rather than blanket on/off settings.
Other/ Free Services
In addition to the standard VPN offering, Private Internet Access also provide a SOCKS5 proxy for all accounts – although there’s no setup guide for this, and despite a lengthy conversation with support we couldn’t get it to work.
Private Internet Access Review Conclusion
- Wide range of user-selectable encryption options
- High strength encryption and handshaking available
- Good range of protocols
- Clients for all major platforms
- Excellent Android app and OpenVPN on iOS (through OpenVPN Connect)
- Fantastic range of security options built-in to clients
- Good speeds
- No logs
- Good prices and money-back guarantee
We weren’t so sure about
- Speeds and connection times can be variable
- Waiting times for support a little higher than some other providers
- Couldn’t get proxy to work
While its clients and website lack the visual pizazz of some other VPNs, Private Internet Access’ core service is excellent, its clients are powerful and it has some of the most accessible and useful user-configuration options we’ve seen on both Windows and Android platforms. Given all this is available for a price point reaching as low as $3.33 with a seven-day money back guarantee to boot, Private Internet Access makes for a very easy recommendation. Go give them a try today.