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Private Internet Access Review

Simon Migliano
Simon MiglianoUpdated
Private Internet Access
Our rating: 3.85
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Super fast VPN with fantastic privacy options. Easy access to streaming sites.

What we like
  • Excellent speeds - 61Mbps global average
  • Easy, high speed access to Netflix and BBC iPlayer
  • Unrestricted P2P and torrent use
  • Easy-to-use apps with simple set-up on most devices
  • Connect securely to 28 countries

Private Internet Access is a super quick zero-logs VPN that packs in loads of advanced privacy features. Both upload and download speeds in most popular locations are fantastic, and low latency makes it a great choice for gamers. Access to major streaming services is simple enough but is often a case of trial-and-error. Custom apps are available for a range of devices, and while these are functional they’re not very user-friendly.

PIA offers strong encryption and more privacy features than most other providers, such as first-party DNS servers and a built-in malware blocker. Its strict zero-logs policy means you don’t need to worry about your personal information being leaked, as PIA doesn’t even collect basic connection metadata. Customer support is fairly extensive with lots of helpful information but no live chat feature.

Pricing & Deals

PIA offers a range of pricing plans to make choosing your ideal option as simple as possible. They all offer the same features but the longer you sign up for, the less you pay each month.

A single month package is actually very reasonably-priced at $6.95, compared to some providers that charge over double that amount. This amount drops by over half to $3.33 per month if you sign up for a 12-month subscription, and 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 Pricing & Deals

The prices below include the coupon savings.

Best Value Deal
2 years
US$2.91/mo
Save 58%
Billed $69.84 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

PIA offers a 7-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 and they will take care of it from there.

It should be noted that your card will be charged when you first sign up to the service, however all refunds are processed within 3-7 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 Bitcoin. Users in certain countries may also have access to additional international payment options such as mint, ecoPayz and Neosurf, however these methods cannot be used to set up a recurring subscription.

Speed & Reliability

PIA has produced some of 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’ll struggle to find a faster provider in the current market. We were also really impressed with its global performance, with an amazing average download speed of 61Mbps. 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 super low latency of less than 1ms in some locations.

Private Internet Access Performance Data

  • Download Speed Average:60.72 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:26.72 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:139 ms
  • Download Speed Average:53.21 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:123.40 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:39 ms
  • Download Speed Average:307.68 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:97.46 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:2 ms
  • Download Speed Average:215.83 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:251.76 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:3 ms
  • Download Speed Average:177.55 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:159.88 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:3 ms
  • Download Speed Average:217.59 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:101.85 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:23 ms
  • Download Speed Average:27.91 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:57.28 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:27 ms
  • Download Speed Average:40.00 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:94.21 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:4 ms
  • Download Speed Average:98.39 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:91.38 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:2 ms
  • Download Speed Average:142.57 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:88.04 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:38 ms
  • Download Speed Average:230.14 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:157.85 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:1 ms
  • Download Speed Average:155.59 Mbps
    Upload Speed Average:27.34 Mbps
    Ping Time Average:17 ms

PIA offers some of the fastest download speeds on local connections we’ve ever seen, peaking at an incredible 308Mbps in Frankfurt, with other hotspots averaging around 151Mbps. Connecting out to the US from the UK you can expect average speeds approaching 85Mbps, 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 7Mbps.

Latency was also ridiculously low at under 1ms for users in Toronto, 2ms in Sydney, and less than 3ms in London. Most other popular locations came in at well under 5ms ping, making PIA a great choice for gamers and privacy-conscious streamers.

PIA connects reasonably quickly at around 10 seconds on average, and we found performance to be very reliable with little fluctuation. We didn’t experience any connection drops during our tests, so presuming you have a stable internet connection you shouldn’t encounter any issues.

Average local upload speeds of 114Mbps are some of the best we’ve seen in our tests, making PIA very appealing to users of P2P software. Local connections in other locations tested significantly higher than that, such as London, with speeds of 252Mbps. Overall upload speeds were fairly consistent across the network, with even the slowest individual server (Vancouver) delivering a decent 27Mbps.

PIA really impressed us with its seriously fast speeds on local connections but also its consistency across the global network. Very few other providers can compete with PIA in terms of worldwide performance, particularly on download speeds. Fantastically low latency and reliable upload speeds make it the perfect choice for gamers and torrenters.

To read about our speed testing methodologies, please read How we test for VPN speed performance.

Features

Server Locations

28Countries28Countries
43Cities43Cities
3,172IP Addresses3,172IP Addresses

PIA falls short on server locations in comparison to its rival providers, with only 28 countries covered. Should you only need specific servers, this limited choice may not affect you at all, but if you’re looking for a VPN with extensive global coverage there are other options out there.

PIA does operate a relatively large number of individual servers at over 3,000, but unfortunately they do not specify the number of IP addresses they have on offer. This leads us to believe that there is most likely only one shared IP address per server, again bringing the total to just over 3,000, which is pretty small compared to other top-tier VPNs. This could lead to server congestion at peak times, although thankfully we are yet to experience this in our tests.

We were pleasantly surprised to find a choice of 9 different cities in the US providing coast-to-coast coverage. A choice of 3 city-level servers is also available in the UK and Canada, which seems about right in a network of this size.

For such a well-established VPN brand it’s surprising that only 15 European countries are covered, none of which have city-level choice. It was nice to see 2 locations in Australia, as well as a choice of a few different Asian countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. South and Central America is represented by Brazil and Mexico only, with no options in Africa at all.

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

Platforms & Devices

Apps

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

PIA offers a good range of custom apps for several devices including Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS and Android. They have also partnered with FlashRouters and Sploitworks to provide pre-configured routers with PIA already installed, so all you have to do is plug in and wirelessly connect your devices.

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. They also provide 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

PIA also offers a proxy browser extension for Chrome. Unlike the desktop app, it doesn’t encrypt your browser traffic, however it does 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 extension can be used instead of the desktop app for a more lightweight browsing experience, however we wouldn’t recommend this as it is lacking in some of the more advanced privacy features such as the VPN killswitch. However if you simply want to hide your IP address, it’s a great bonus feature.

Console & Streaming Devices

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

PIA 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, however PIA doesn’t provide any set-up guides to help you with this, nor does it guarantee that all devices will work.

Despite the lack of ‘official’ guides, there are a lot of helpful tips on the community section of PIA’s site, including how to set up the software on your Amazon Fire Stick, Xbox One or PS4. Obviously these are submitted by members and not endorsed by PIA, however should you get stuck they could come in very useful.

Streaming & Torrenting

PIA is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for quick, easy access to major streaming services. With Netflix’s recent crackdown it’s becoming increasingly difficult for VPN providers to guarantee any of their servers will work with the service, however we were able to access Netflix through our second choice of US server, New York City. With such a large range of US locations on offer, you have loads of options to fall back on if one stops working.

We also had no problems watching BBC iPlayer through PIA, with one-click access through all of their UK servers. The great speeds on offer mean you can also enjoy all of your favorite shows in buffer-free HD.

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

PIA is one of the most configurable VPN services on the current market in terms of privacy. 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 AES-256 as that is considered unbreakable.

The VPN killswitch 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.

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-256
Security
  • DNS Leak Blocking
  • First-party DNS
  • IPV6 Leak Blocking
  • Supports TCP Port 443
  • VPN Killswitch
  • WebRTC Leak Blocking
Advanced features
  • SOCKS

Bypassing Censorship

As a result of China’s VPN crackdown, PIA is no longer a suitable choice for people wishing to connect out from that country.

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, as the apps use OpenVPN which won’t work in China. There are other providers that are much more straightforward to use and give you a higher level of protection.

PIA does however remain a solid choice for people in other high-censorship countries due to its range of powerful privacy tools, however the limited range of server locations does mean that you might not always get the best speeds possible.

Privacy

Logging Policy

PIA operates a strict zero logs policy, 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 they are unable to provide customer usage information “under any circumstances”. 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

PIA’s desktop app is incredibly unpolished and in dire need of a makeover to bring it up to modern standards, however it does function very well indeed. It’s a system tray icon which helpfully lights up in green to let you know you’re connected. A right-click brings up a long list of servers to choose from, and that’s pretty much it aside from a separate settings window.

In order to access the settings menu you have to be disconnected from the VPN, which isn’t unusual but is a little annoying. There is an on/off toggle to access more advanced options that are otherwise hidden in a sub-menu, such as your connection type, local port and level of encryption. This is great for more experienced users but the layout really is flawed and could be off-putting for those who’ve never used a VPN before.

Ironically the mobile apps are incredibly modern and streamlined, with just as much configurability as the desktop app as well as some extra connection details. We’d love to see some improvement on the desktop client to bring it up to speed with mobile, as right now it simply isn’t worthy of the level of tech PIA are offering.

Getting started

Installation and set-up is incredibly easy and only takes a matter of minutes. Whatever platform you are 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.

The process is as simple as downloading the relevant software from the site and following the prompts given to you by the installation wizard. Should you get stuck, simply refer back to the relevant support section for your device and you should be back on track. Once you’ve downloaded and set up the app, simply run as administrator, enter your login credentials and you’re ready to go.

  • Installing software
  • How to use the app

Customer Support

PIA offers an extensive range of resources on their website covering everything from setup and installation to troubleshooting various issues. These are incredibly well-organised and come with a search function to look up keywords. We love the animated set-up videos but it would be better if these were rolled out more widely across the site as some of the resources could seem quite complex to more inexperienced users.

Our main issue with PIA’s customer support was the lack of live chat feature, which meant that we had to fill in an online form whenever we had an issue or even just a question. Usually responses were fairly snappy but on a handful of occasions we were waiting several hours for a reply, which isn’t much good when you have a query that could easily be solved by an online agent in a matter of minutes.

The Bottom Line

What we like
  • Fast, reliable performance with local connection speeds of up to 420Mbps
  • Great choice for streaming, including access to Netflix, BBC iPlayer and more
  • Very easy to use. Instant set-up on most devices
  • Connect securely to 28 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
  • Desktop software is old-fashioned and not very user-friendly
  • Email 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. Access to major streaming services isn’t as easy as it could be but does the job well enough.

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, as even if a third-party requested your data PIA would have nothing to show them. The desktop app packs in loads of advanced options you don’t see from every provider such as a VPN killswitch, WebRTC leak protection and a malware blocker.

Our only real issue with PIA is the outdated desktop client, which really needs updating to create an interface worthy of the level of tech on offer. Inexperienced users might be put off by the unpolished layout, but if you’re willing to overlook this it’s actually very functional and packs in lots of extra features, making it one of the more advanced VPN softwares we’ve seen so far.