Private Internet Access Review
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Private Internet Access is a US based company that takes advantage of the fact that the US does not have mandatory data retention law, allowing it to offer a very high level of guaranteed anonymity to its customers. In our tests we found that Private Internet Access had a good overall attitude to users’ privacy which, when combined with blazing fast connection speeds, a simple but very easy to use VPN client, and extremely competitive pricing, meant that we liked it very much.
In fact, but for support of 256-bit OpenVPN encryption and the fact there is no free trial or money back guarantee, we would have given it a perfect score.
We do think Private Internet Access is the best value for money for a VPN service.
Click here to visit their site and sign up now.
We’ve made a video review of how PIA works, you can check it out below:
Pricing and Features
Private Internet Access offers just one “kitchen sink” plan for $6.95 p/m, although buying a yearly package for $39.95 reduces this to a very pocket friendly $3.33 per month.
For that, you get an OpenVPN (with PPTP and L2TP IP Sec for those who want or need it) connection to 18 servers (with 199+ gateways) in 9 countries (8 in the US, the rest in Canada, the UK and the Europe).
Also provided is a Socks5 Proxy, which may be useful for those wishing to configure a BitTorrent client so it can be used anonymously, without the need to connect via VPN. For the truly paranoid this will also provide a double, if somewhat unnecessary, layer of protection if used in conjunction with the VPN service.
The only disappointment here comes from the fact there is no free trial or money back guarantee.
Website & Customer Service
The Private Internet Access website is a polished affair, easy to navigate, clearly laid out and featuring a swanky promotional video. There is also a fair of bit general information on VPN, and how using Private Internet Access’ service can benefit its users.
Customer service comes in the form of live chat and a ticketed email system. We emailed a query out of US office hours, and received an answer in timely fashion (about the same time that the Chat system came on-line) so while simple, the service seems efficient.
There is also a FAQ, but it’s a little on the sparse side.
Security & Privacy
Based in the US, and therefore with no requirement to collect or log traffic use or monitor users activities, Private Internet Access does not do so. Also, because they use shared IPs, it is impossible to match an individual user to any activity on their system. Records of email addresses and payment data are kept, but Private Internet Access recommend the use of disposable emails addresses, and accept anonymous Bitcoin payments.
On a technical level, Private Internet Access offers the more secure OpenVPN protocol as standard, although only 128-bit version (CBC Blowfish), which is absolutely fine for most purposes but doesn’t set our world on fire.
On a much more positive note, the supplied VPN client features DNS leak protection, and auto-disconnection from the internet should your VPN connection go down, both features that are great for protecting users’ identity.
All in all, we think that Private Internet Access offers a superior service in terms of security and privacy.
Signing up was one of the easiest experiences we have yet encountered with a VPN provider, with absolutely no information being asked of us. On choosing to pay via PayPal we were taken straight the PayPal payment page and that was it! Of course, Private Internet Access will obtain your email address form the payment process, but mentioned above, they accept Bitcoin, and encourage the use of anonymous email. We found this simplicity refreshing, and also appreciated the wide choice of payment options on offer.
Account activation emails appeared in our Inbox within seconds, and were soon downloading the Windows VPN client.
The Windows Client
Installing the client was breeze, and we were soon presented with its Simple settings page. A nice touch was that, downloaded from the email link, the username and password fields were already correctly filled in which saved us the chore.
The Advanced settings are also a little basic, but the option to turn on DNS leak protection and a VPN kill switch are very welcome. The VPN kill switch completely stops your computer’s internet connection if you become disconnected from the VPN so that, for instance, your BitTorrent client will not keep downloading files and possibly reveal your true IP address to prying eyes.
One important feature that is missing from the client (or alternatively the website) is information on server loads. However, as our speedtest.net results showed, this may in practice not be too important.
Once the settings are saved a cute robot icon appears in the task bar (far left).
Right click on it to select a server or let Private Internet Access choose one for you automatically.
And hey presto… you’re connected!
Testing Private Internet Access’s service using our 10 megabyte UK broadband connection achieved the following results:
As you can see, the results were superb.
Private Internet Access provides dedicated clients for Windows and OSX, as well as setup guides for manually configuring OSX, Windows, Android, Boxee Box, and DD-WRT routers for PPTP, Android, iOS Windows and OSX for L2TP/IP Sec, and Windows, OSX, Ubuntu, DD-WRT, Tomato, PFSense, and Android 4.0 for OpenVPN (along with the necessary configuration files).
We decided to test the L2TP/ IP Sec service using an Android phone. The instructions were simple and easy to follow (although for an older version of Android than we were using).
Once we had entered our password, it off to speedtest.net to put it through the connection through its paces:
Again, the results were very good.
- No logs kept of users’ IP addresses or internet activity
- Very fast speedtest.net results
- Signing-up process almost non-existent
- Bitcoin payment option
- Simple client that worked well
- VNP kill switch in client
- DNS leak protection in client
We weren’t so sure about
- No free trial or money back guarantee
- OpenVPN encryption is ok but could be better
- No information on server loads
Private Internet Access offers a fairly no frills VPN service, but it does so quite slickly, and delivers very well on the things that matter most to a VPN provider: anonymity, ease of use, and speed. Although we would prefer to see 256-bit OpenVPN encryption, this is really a bit of a quibble, and we have no hesitation in recommending this service.