Private Internet Access (PIA) is a VPN service that has been respected in the VPN industry for many years. It is a US-based VPN that provides high levels of privacy and reliability. The VPN has a zero-logs policy, which it has proven in court. It also provides strong encryption and plenty of servers around the world. PIA is also cheap which makes it an attractive option for anybody looking for privacy and website unblocking services.
- Server Locations 33
- Average Speed 16.1 Mbit/s
- Simultaneous Connections 5
- Jurisdiction USA
- Cheaper than most similar VPNs
- Great for privacy and security
- Lots of encryption options (including OpenVPN, our recommended protocol)
- Fast connection speeds for streaming
- Servers all over the world
- Not the best VPN for beginners who need hands-on support
- Doesn’t unblock some popular websites (Netflix US and BBC iPlayer for instance)
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Private Internet Access can be purchased in three different subscription plans. All those plans offer the same functionality, they differ only in that the price becomes cheaper if you commit for a longer period of time. At $6.95 for a single month, this VPN is among the cheapest single month VPNs we have ever reviewed. And, paying $3.33 per month for a year is a really excellent price point that is extremely hard to beat.
PIA subscriptions can be purchased with a credit card, PayPal, and a number of online payment systems. Subscribers can also choose to pay using a variety of different gift cards including Starbucks, Bestbuy, and Walmart. This is great for paying with more anonymity (you could sign up with a burner email). In addition, PIA accepts Bitcoins and Z-cash.
For those looking to try PIA, the firm provides a solid 7-day money back guarantee period. This allows anybody to test the VPN risk-free for an entire week.
We really can’t stress how cheap the one month PIA plan is. It allows you to trial the VPN for a whole month (or get your money back within 7 days) to ensure you love it before committing to the ludicrously cheap two-year plan that PIA also offers. Impressive.
When it comes to streaming content this VPN is Okay for most people. If your desire is a VPN for accessing streaming websites like putlockers, 123movies, Viooz, etc, then this VPN will protect your privacy and let you stream content for free - all day long.
However, if you specifically want a VPN for unblocking Netflix US; this VPN is not for you. Netflix goes out of its way to block VPN services and PIA gave up unblocking Netflix a few years ago. Sadly, the same is true of BBC iPlayer, which Private Internet Access no longer unblocks either.
Bare metal or virtual servers
PIA VPN is a fully featured VPN that comes with a lot of advantages:
No logs VPN
Apps for all platforms
P2P Torrenting permitted
3,236 servers in 33 countries
Lots of encryption options
5 simultaneous devices
Killswitch on all platforms
- Auto-connect feature
Something this VPN does that is unique is to have server counts, locations, and bandwidth stats on its website. Users can also select each individual VPN server and do a speed check to see how it is performing.
Speed and Performance
We test VPN speeds three times a day using a scientific server-based speed test system. Our servers test servers in Hong Kong, Australia, the UK, and the US for burst (max) speeds and download averages. Our tests for a six month period are shown below.
Average downloads speeds of 16.1 Mbps are a little bit disappointing, but, to be fair, this VPN is very cheap. Also, those download speeds will still allow you to stream content in HD - so it is not as bad as it seems. However, it is fair to say that there are much faster VPNs available on the market.
On the plus side, the burst speeds tested from the UK server to a local UK test server were pretty fast (81.9 Mbps), which helps to reinforce that this VPN will perform to most people’s satisfaction.
We compared our speed results against the ones on PIA's online speed testing system. According to PIA, download speeds were 42.93 Mbit/s. Our test servers (I set the average to the last 24 hours) displayed results of 18.1 Mbit/s. Thus, we found PIA's feature to overestimate the VPN's speeds compared to our OpenVPN speed tests. However, it is possible that PIA tests its connection with the (now outdated and insecure) PPTP protocol - which would produce faster speeds (but id be genuinely shocked if it more than doubled them).
BestVPN.com SpeedTest (max/burst)
BestVPN.com SpeedTest (average)
IPv4 leak detected?
WebRTC leak detected?
We tested PIA for leaks using ipleak.net. Our tests revealed that it is a solid VPN that suffers from no IPv4 IP leaks, WebRTC leaks, or DNS leaks. No leaks were discovered on Mac when testing an IPv6 connection, either.
However, we did discover an IPv6 WebRTC leak on Windows. Luckily this is of little concern because it can easily be plugged by disabling WebRTC in the browser, or by using the Easy WebRTC Block extension. The leak can also be plugged by disabling IPv6 connections in the Network and Sharing center.
All in all a pretty good result, and it is nice to see that this VPN has a killswitch on all platforms.
Being based in the US is not ideal for a privacy service. The US government has passed legislation that it can use to force US-based companies to provide them with all the data that passes through their servers (not only the US servers - but servers worldwide). Luckily, however, PIA is a zero logs VPN, which means that it has no records to give to the authorities even if it is approached.
On the other hand, it is possible that the US authorities could serve PIA with a warrant and gag order to begin keeping logs. This is a concern for anybody who needs watertight privacy protections. However, it is also true that PIA is one of the few VPNs that has proven its no logs claim in court; several times.
This VPN permits P2P downloading via BitTorrent, which is always a sign of a VPN provider that is not concerned about having logs sequestered by the authorities.
PIA is one of the few VPNs that provides a large number of encryption settings in its clients. PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, and OpenVPN encryption are available.
Subscribers can toggle through many different cipher strengths for OpenVPN, giving them the power to make the security of the VPN tougher or weaker (to get better performance). The VPN provides everything from strong to ridiculously strong OpenVPN implementation (meaning that it really has no weak settings).
A killswitch on all platforms also guarantees people’s privacy. Here are the encryption standards for OpenVPN:
Data channel: AES-256 cipher, with strong SHA256 for authorization and a handshake of RSA 4096.
Control channel: AES-256 cipher with SHA384 authentication. Perfect Forward Secrecy is delivered with a DHE+RSA exchange for RSA handshakes, or ECDHE+ECDSA for ECC handshakes.
This is extremely robust encryption, which will provide military-grade privacy and security of the data tunnel. While having a lot of encryption options may be a trifle confusing for beginners, in reality, it is very easy to set the VPN up. Also, having extra options is definitely a bonus of this service.
Live chat support
When it comes to customer service, you do get what you pay for with PIA. Unlike many premium VPNs, it does not have a live chat support feature on its website. This may put some people off. However, with such a reliable VPN it is unlikely that people will experience problems very often and the fact that it is possible to get support via email (ticket system) is probably going to be OK for most people.
In terms of other resources, Private Internet Access VPN is outstanding. The website has an FAQ section and a blog that is well above average for the VPN industry in general. This is no surprise considering its connections to the privacy guru and Swedish political figure Rick Falkvinge.
Perhaps my only quibble with PIA’s support is that it is advertised as 24/7 on its website.
We found this to be a little bit dishonest as I did have to wait around seven hours (and up to a day on one occasion) to get a response when we tested this out.
Again, you do get what you pay for in life, and, this VPN is cheap. However, because most people will likely never need support it isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. We’d certainly recommend giving this VPN a test run using the one month trial and 7-day money back guarantee. If it runs smoothly for a month, it is likely to work for perfectly on your system for two years.
We found the user experience to be fantastic from the getgo with this VPN provider. PIA is a VPN that actually puts important information on its website so that you know exactly what you are getting in terms of features and encryption implementation. This is a breath of fresh air in an industry where it is common for details to be hidden away.
As far as its software is concerned, PIA has easy to use apps for all popular platforms including Android, Windows, Mac, iOS, and Linux. It also has guides for installing it on a selection of routers (DD-WRT, Tomato, PfSense, LEDE, Merlin, AsusWRT).
PIA also provides setup guides and tutorials for every single platform, which can help beginners to get the VPN going if they have any confusion.
A SOCKS5 Proxy is also available to all subscribers on the VPN’s website (for all platforms).
The Windows app comes with a Killswitch and obfuscation tech for getting around VPN firewalls. It also allows people to conceal their VPN use in countries where they are frowned upon. Unfortunately, we did discover an IPv6 WebRTC leak when testing this client - so you will need to disable IPv6 connections or disable WebRTC to mate the VPN perform securely.
Overall we found this VPN client to be stable and reliable. It provides strong OpenVPN encryption a choice of encryption strengths, and both OpenVPN UDP or TCP. We found speeds to be adequate enough to stream videos on YouTube and other platforms. And, it is a trustworthy client for downloading via P2P.
This client suffered no leaks on IPV4 or IPv6. That is excellent and means that the VPN can provide strong privacy and security straight out of the box. A killswitch is available and this client has obfuscation tech. An excellent VPN for Mac that has everything Mac users need to protect themselves both at home and on public WiFi.
The Android client is exactly the same as its Windows and Mac counterparts. It comes with all the same privacy features, including the kill switch and a wide choice of encryption options. The auto-connect feature is also useful for people that want the VPN to connect every time they use the internet (great for people that move around and use public WiFi a lot, for example).
Users can select between Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP), which is handy for people who want to stream on their Android devices. I found the Android app to be stable and speeds were no different from those experienced in the desktop versions.
The iOS app provides L2TP/IPsec encryption by default. It is an excellent app that comes with a Connect On Demand feature which works in coordination with the auto-connect feature to provide a killswitch like feature. It works by stopping any traffic from leaving the iPhone if the VPN disconnects.
However, it is worth bearing in mind that this is a reactive in-app feature, so it is possible that you may leak data to your ISP if the client crashes. Overall, we found this to be an excellent VPN client that is good for gaining digital privacy both at home and on public WiFi.
PIA is a highly subscribed VPN service that is often praised by privacy-conscious individuals on Reddit. It is a VPN with high-quality clients that can provide robust levels of privacy.
The VPN software is easy to use on all platforms, and, it has the necessary features to protect consumers’ data privacy. Customer care is sometimes criticized with this VPN, and the lack of 24/7 live chat does set it below many premium VPN services nowadays. However, remember that this VPN is cheaper than most of those services - and it is reliable which means you likely won’t need support very often.
What seems certain, is that PIA is ideal for more experienced VPN users who can benefit from some savings by getting a no-frills service with a less active support portal.
Where speeds are concerned this VPN is not blinding, so if you are paying for a fast internet connection and are one of those people who likes to use a VPN at all times, you may want something a bit faster. On the plus side, speeds are stable and they are fast enough for streaming in HD.
It is true that PIA VPN does not unblock Netflix US or BBC iPlayer. If you want to access these kinds of services - you will probably want to look elsewhere. However, if you are generally happy watching free content on sites like putlockers or by downloading from the Pirate Bay - this VPN will probably tick your boxes.
An excellent VPN that is a real bargain considering how well it is equipped to provide digital privacy. Sadly, however, it would appear that Comcast in the US is throttling PIA users, which means that those US customers may want to look elsewhere.