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Private Internet Access Review

Callum Tennent
By Callum TennentUpdated
Our Score8.8
User Rating
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Super fast VPN with fantastic privacy options. Easy access to streaming sites.

What we like
  • Excellent speeds - 84Mbps global average
  • Easy, high speed access to Netflix
  • Unrestricted P2P and torrent use
  • Easy-to-use apps with simple set-up on most devices
  • Connect securely to 33 countries

It may not be the biggest name on the market, but know this: Private Internet Access is the absolute fastest VPN you can subscribe to in 2019.

Not only that, but you get a host of high-end privacy and security features like a built-in malware blocker and first party DNS servers, and a reassuringly minimal logging policy to back it all up.

Pricing & Deals

Each Private Internet Access package offers the exact same product and features – all that changes is the price, which comes down in per-month terms the longer you sign up for.

Compared to its rivals a single month package is actually very reasonably-priced at $6.95. This amount drops to less than half of that at $3.33 per month if you sign up for a 12-month subscription. If you commit to the 24-month package the savings are even bigger, with a 58% reduction to $2.91 each month. This makes PIA one of the cheapest options in the current market.

Private Internet Access Coupon

Private Internet Access Pricing & Deals

Best Value Deal
2 Years
US$2.91/mo
Save 58%
Billed $69.95 every 2 years
12 Months
US$3.33/mo
Save 52%
Billed $39.96 every 12 months
1 Month
US$6.95/mo
Billed $6.95 every month
Get Private Internet Access7-day money-back guarantee

Private Internet Access offers a seven-day money-back guarantee in place of a free trial for those customers who are ‘less than 100% satisfied’ with the service. This is genuinely no-questions-asked with no hidden catches or restrictions. All you have to do is submit a refund request via email or an online form to the billing department.

It should be noted that your card will be charged when you first sign up to the service, however all refunds are processed within seven working days. This makes signing up to PIA a relatively risk-free experience.

Payment Options

PIA accepts a broad range of payment methods including most major credit and debit cards, PayPal and a few cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Zcash. Users in certain countries may also have access to additional international payment options such as Mint, ecoPayz, and Neosurf, although these methods can't be used to set up a rolling subscription.

Speed & Reliability

PIA has produced some the most impressive results we’ve seen on our speed tests so far. Its best servers are absolutely fantastic: if you live near London, New York or Toronto and mainly want to connect locally you won’t find a faster provider in the current market.

We were also highly impressed with its global performance, with an amazing average download speed of 84Mbps. Again, this is the highest we’ve seen from any provider, making it a fantastic choice for P2P users and torrenters.

Gamers will love the practically non-existent latency of less than 1ms in some locations.

Private Internet Access Performance Data

Select location:
  • Download Speed Average:84.12 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:30.06 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:139 ms
  • Download Speed Average:280.11 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:160.53 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:4 ms
  • Download Speed Average:321.58 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:78.85 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:2 ms
  • Download Speed Average:340.03 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:164.96 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:3 ms
  • Download Speed Average:367.75 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:201.87 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:2 ms
  • Download Speed Average:385.15 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:185.87 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:2 ms
  • Download Speed Average:163.70 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:57.23 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:19 ms
  • Download Speed Average:43.03 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:161.67 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:4 ms
  • Download Speed Average:237.39 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:162.65 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:1 ms
  • Download Speed Average:177.25 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:55.43 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:3 ms
  • Download Speed Average:385.93 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:204.06 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:1 ms
  • Download Speed Average:66.47 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:16.01 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:62 ms

PIA offers some of the fastest download speeds on local connections we’ve ever seen, peaking at an incredible 386Mbps in Toronto and Paris, with other hotspots averaging around 252Mbps. Connecting out to the US from the UK you can expect average speeds approaching 111Mbps, more than ample for HD streaming across multiple devices. Even more distant connections performed very well, with Japan to San Francisco reaching speeds of over 59Mbps.

Latency was also ridiculously low at under 1ms for users in Toronto and Sydney and less than 2ms in New York. Most other popular locations came in at well under 5ms ping, making PIA a great choice for gamers and privacy-conscious streamers.

Average local upload speeds of 132Mbps are some of the best we’ve seen in our tests, making PIA very appealing to users of P2P software.

Very few providers can compete with PIA in terms of worldwide performance, particularly on download speeds.

To find out more about our bespoke speed test, read How We Review VPNs.

Features

Server Locations

33Countries33Countries
52Cities52Cities
3,000+IP Addresses3,000+IP Addresses

Private Internet Access’ 33 national server locations is a much smaller number than the biggest providers have to offer, although you do at least get a good global spread.

While its 3,000 servers may seem like a large number on the surface, it doesn’t specify how many individual IP addresses that equates to. This leads us to believe that there is most likely only one shared IP address per server, which is once again a very small offering.

In theory this could mean slowdown and congestion on popular servers, but we’ve never come across such issues in our testing.

We were pleasantly surprised to find a choice of 12 different cities in the US providing coast-to-coast coverage, not to mention a number of city-level options in smaller nations around the globe.

You can find the complete list of Private Internet Access server locations by country and city on its website below.

Platforms & Devices

Apps

Windows LogoWindows
Mac LogoMac
iOS LogoiOS
Android LogoAndroid
Linux LogoLinux
Router LogoRouter

Private Internet Access offers a good range of custom apps for several devices including Microsoft Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android. It’s also possible to purchase a pre-configured routers with PIA already installed.

On PIA’s website you can also find loads of manual set-up guides for those devices without native apps, such as older versions of Windows. It also provides step-by-step instructions to manually configure your existing router to support the software, including helpful screenshots and troubleshooting advice in case you get stuck.

Browser Extensions

Chrome LogoChrome
Firefox LogoFirefox

Private Internet Access also offers proxy browser extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera. Unlike the desktop app, they only encrypt your browser traffic, but also protect you against WebRTC leaks, which is an incredibly valuable feature to have as it prevents your true IP address from being exposed.

PIA suggests the extensions can be used instead of the desktop app for a more lightweight browsing experience, however we wouldn’t recommend this as they are lacking in some of the more advanced privacy features.

Games Consoles & Streaming Devices

AppleTV LogoAppleTV
Amazon Fire TV LogoAmazon Fire TV
Chromecast LogoChromecast
Nintendo LogoNintendo
PlayStation LogoPlayStation
Roku LogoRoku
Xbox LogoXbox

Private Internet Access unfortunately doesn’t offer any custom apps for Smart TVs, consoles or streaming devices. It is possible to use the software with such devices by connecting them to a configured router. PIA provides setup guides to help you with this, but it doesn’t guarantee that all devices will work, nor does it provide customer support for them.

There are also a lot of helpful tips on the community section of PIA’s site, including how to set up the software on your Amazon Fire TV Stick, Xbox One or PlayStation 4. They are submitted by members and not endorsed by PIA, but should you get stuck community support is always appreciated.

Streaming & Torrenting

With such a large range of US locations on offer you have loads of options to fall back on if the one you rely upon for Netflix access stops working. We were able to get access at the second time of asking, via the Washington DC server.

Unfortunately, during our recent test we weren’t able to watch BBC iPlayer through any of PIA’s UK servers. When we contacted customer support it somewhat unhelpfully said: “Support for working around geo-locked or geo-blocked content is not within [its] scope of customer support.”

Due to the BBC’s latest crackdowns on VPN traffic, many providers are struggling to provide consistent access to the service, but there are some that continue to offer quick and easy access – we’d recommend SaferVPN.

Excellent local download speeds combined with consistently amazing upload speeds make PIA a brilliant option for torrenters and Kodi users. P2P is permitted on all servers, massively reducing the risk of slow speeds or congestion, and a range of powerful privacy tools means all your activity is protected.

Encryption & Security

Private Internet Access is one of the most configurable VPN services on the current market in terms of privacy – that’s great for both beginners and experts alike.

The desktop app connects by default using OpenVPN, the most secure protocol available, with the option to toggle between UDP and TCP. You can choose between two levels of encryption, AES-128 and AES-256, but we would recommend you keep it locked at AES-256.

The VPN kill switch feature is essential, as it blocks all web traffic should the VPN connection drop out for any reason. PIA also operates its own zero-log DNS servers, ensuring that your traffic is never routed through any third-party servers and therefore your true IP address is not at risk of being exposed.

Protection against DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC leaks is a huge bonus and not something offered by many other providers, meaning PIA really stands out from the crowd when it comes to providing top-class security. These features proved their effectiveness during our independent leak tests.

Another unique feature that comes with the desktop app is PIA’s own MACE software, which blocks ads, trackers, and malware while you’re connected to the VPN. It also supports TCP Port 443, which is used for secure web traffic over HTTPS, meaning you will appear online as normal web browser traffic rather than a VPN user.

Protocol
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
  • PPTP
Encryption
  • AES-128
  • AES-256
Security
  • DNS Leak Blocking
  • First-party DNS
  • IPV6 Leak Blocking
  • Supports TCP Port 443
  • VPN Kill Switch
  • WebRTC Leak Blocking
Advanced features
  • Ad Blocker
  • SOCKS

Bypassing Censorship

Don’t bother with Private Internet Access if you’re looking for a reliable escape from Chinese censorship. The recent government crackdown has rendered it useless.

The only way to connect to the VPN service is to manually configure your devices and connect to PIA’s server IP addresses rather than server names. This is a complicated and fiddly process that only allows you to connect via L2TP, one of the more insecure protocols. There are other providers that are much more straightforward to use and give you a higher level of protection.

That said, PIA remains a solid choice for those in other high-censorship countries thanks to its range of powerful privacy tools. The limited range of server locations means that you might not always get the best speeds possible, though.

Privacy

Logging Policy

Private Internet Access operates one of the best zero logs policies we’ve ever come across, stating that it prioritizes customer privacy above all else.

It does not log when you access the service, how long you use it for, your originating IP address or the IP address you choose to connect with. None of your online activity is monitored, recorded or passed on to third parties, giving you absolute peace of mind.

PIA does not even monitor general server performance, which it admits makes things “harder in some cases” but ensures the highest level of security possible to all of its users.

Jurisdiction

Private Internet Access is incorporated in the USA, possibly the least privacy-friendly jurisdiction on the planet. However, its zero-logs policy means that this shouldn’t be too much of an issue for most users, as even if a third-party organisation requested your data, PIA would have nothing to show them.

In PIA’s privacy policy, it states that subpoenas and court orders are closely reviewed by the legal team before any response is made, but in every case it is unable to provide customer usage information as it ‘cannot provide information that [it does] not have’. It is also not subject to EU Mandatory Data Retention logs as it is classed as a private network and therefore exempt.

Ease of Use

In the past, PIA’s one glaring failure was its clunky, unintuitive and grossly outdated desktop app. But it has recently released a far more modern app which is much easier to navigate and straight-up better looking, clearly taking note from its competitors.

There are plenty of customization options for desktop notifications, launch on start-up, and a kill switch with an ‘always’ option.

It’s come a long way but it’s not perfect: the advanced settings still open in a new tab and the tray app remains open on top, blocking the view. Annoyingly, you have to close the whole tray app manually in order to see it.

The mobile app is terrific – with just as much configurability as the desktop app, plus some extra connection details.

Getting Started

Installation and set-up is incredibly easy and only takes a matter of minutes. Whatever platform you’re using, there are loads of helpful set-up guides on the PIA website that are really easy to follow and contain lots of useful screenshots so you can make sure you’re doing the right thing.

  • Installing software
  • How to use the app

Customer Support

Private Internet Access offers an extensive range of resources on its website covering everything from setup and installation to troubleshooting various issues. These are incredibly well organized and come with a search function to look up keywords. We love the animated set-up videos, too, even if there aren’t all that many.

One of our main issues with PIA was the lack of live chat feature offered by many of its rivals, including VPNArea and StrongVPN. It seems the provider listened because as part of its new app live chat support has been included, thankfully forgoing online forms.

This live chat support is available Monday – Friday between 9am to 6 pm. It’s not 24/7 as many top providers are and the responses are not as instant, but it was only a few minutes wait and the support was very friendly.

 

The Bottom Line

What we like
  • Fast, reliable performance with local connection speeds of up to 386Mbps
  • Great choice for streaming, including access to Netflix
  • Very easy to use. Instant set-up on most devices
  • Connect securely to 33 countries worldwide
  • Lots of advanced privacy features and a strict zero-logs policy
What we like less
  • Very limited server network compared to top-tier providers
  • Based in the privacy-unfriendly US
  • Email and live chat support can be slow

Private Internet Access is a great choice if you’re looking for a super fast VPN with lots of advanced privacy options. It’s one of the cheapest options on the current market and delivers excellent value for money, even on the monthly plan. Both upload and download speeds on local connections are seriously quick and unbeaten by most other providers, and PIA does well to deliver consistently good performance across its global network.

When it comes to privacy, PIA offers enough configurability to satisfy even the most experienced VPN user. Its zero-logs policy goes a long way to mitigate the fact it’s based in the privacy-unfriendly US, and the desktop app packs in loads of advanced options you don’t see from every provider.

PIA has even updated its desktop client to make it friendlier and easier to navigate, good for an experienced VPN user and the inexperienced alike.  This is one of the most advanced VPNs on the market.


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