Private Internet Access (PIA) is a US-based personal Virtual Private Network first released in August 2010.
Since its launch it has become one of the major VPN services, with over 1,000,000 subscribers (over 500,000 in the US alone).
According to its website, PIA VPN is “powered by a state of the art, tier-1 multi-gigabit private network.”
Fancy words for sure, but does it really live up to expectations? Can you trust this VPN to give you the speeds and privacy you need?
We spent weeks testing Private Internet Access to write the most comprehensive unbiased review. We had to get to the bottom of crucial questions like:
- How does it work and what does it do exactly?
- Is it trustworthy?
- How private is it? Does it keep logs?
- Does it work with Netflix and Hulu?
- Who recently acquired PIA?
But before we dive deeper into this Private Internet Access review, let’s look at PIA VPN’s pros and cons, followed by its key features.
Private Internet Access Pros & Cons
Private Internet Access Key Summary
|Top Download Speed||89Mbps|
|Logging Policy||No Logs|
|IP, DNS or WebRTC Leaks||No|
|Jurisdiction||US (Five-Eyes Member)|
|Works in China||No|
|Cheapest Price||$3.33/mo over 12 Months|
Private Internet Access is an incredibly fast VPN, with some excellent features that make it ideal for privacy advocates. It’s not perfect, though – read on to find out more.
About & Logging Policy
Who is Private Internet Access?
Curiously, Andrew Lee claims to be related to the last emperor of Korea’s Joseon dynasty. Make of that what you will.
London Trust Media launched PIA VPN in 2010 as part of its suite of brands focused on privacy and tech.
In November 2019, Kape Technologies bought London Trust Media for $128 million. Kape own other VPNs, including CyberGhost and ZenMate.
Kape has a checkered history as a company, known previously as Crossrider. Crossrider infected devices with malware and adware and its majority shareholder, Teddy Sagi, was convicted of fraud and bribery in 1996. Its founder and CEO, Koby Menachemi, was also a member of the Israeli Intelligence Corps Unit 8200.
It’s not yet clear how this acquisition will effect PIA’s logging policy and overall validity as a VPN. As long as it maintains its no logs policy, we’re happy.
Kape are based in Romania. You may think this is bad as Romania are part of the EU which has aggressive data retention laws. However, Romania are in fact the only EU nation that doesn’t adhere to these laws, its courts ruling them unconstitutional. This is a great plus for privacy and makes it a safe place to base a VPN. Whether Romania manage to withstand EU pressure to adopt these intrusive laws forever remains to be seen.
Private Internet Access keeps absolutely no VPN logs whatsoever – you can use the service with total peace of mind that your data and traffic is not being monitored, nor can it be traced back to you.
PIA have had its no-logs claims verified multiple times: in 2016 its servers in Russia were seized (no user data was found) and in a 2018 US court case proved once more that it doesn’t retain any user activity logs.
PIA also release transparency reports, which you can read here.
If you still have doubts, rest assured that Private Internet Access protects your privacy.
You can read about what sort of logging we find acceptable or unacceptable with our guide to VPN logging policies.
Speed & Reliability
Very fast and impressive speeds
One thing’s for sure: Private Internet Access is very fast.
Most PIA servers registered impressive speeds: if you live near London, New York or Toronto and want to connect locally you won’t find a faster provider at the moment.
Take a look at some of the outstanding speed results we saw in our most recent tests:
Speed results from our physical location in London (100Mbps fibre optic connection) to a London test server.
Before using Private Internet Access:
When connected to Private Internet Access:
Download speed without Private Internet Acess: 92Mbps
Download speed with Private Internet Access: 89Mbps
Our download speed loss when Private Internet Access is running: 3%
PIA experienced barely any speed loss on local connections and it also has exceptional upload speeds – it’s currently the fastest VPN for a reason.
Testing PIA to a number of key locations around the world produced the following speed results:
- USA: 31Mbps (download) & 38Mbps (upload)
- Germany: 85Mbps (download) & 72Mbps (upload)
- Singapore: 26Mbps (download) & 9Mbps (upload)
- Australia: 35Mbps (download) & 10Mbps (upload)
Great speeds across the board as you can see, but if you’re planning on using a VPN to connect long-distance then ExpressVPN is definitely worth a look.
Small server list, but important locations covered
PIA servers are spread over 32 countries – a smaller number than other major VPNs, but at least every location has a real physical server.
While 3,300-plus VPN servers is a very good count, it’s likely that there’s only one IP address for each. We asked PIA for confirmation however they’re unwilling to disclose the actual number of IP addresses. It’s a very good number nonetheless, but VPN services like IPVanish (40,000) and VyprVPN (200,000) have far more.
The most popular locations are included in its server network. The United States alone benefits from 1,500 servers across 14 separate cities. There’s also specific city-level selection in the UK, Canada, Australia, and Germany.
Streaming & Torrenting
Good for Netflix, great for torrenting
The huge array of US servers means that unblocking Netflix is never more than one or two clicks away.
The following PIA VPN servers worked for unlocking Netflix:
- Washington DC
However did find streaming Netflix through its US East, New York City, Florida and California servers less reliable – these VPN providers proved more reliable in our most recent tests.
Access to BBC iPlayer had recently stopped working for us, and Private Internet Access did tell us that rectifying this was not a priority for them. In our most recent tests PIA did work with BBC iPlayer.
Private Internet Access also works with a whole range of streaming services – here’s a short list:
- Amazon Prime Video
- Sling TV
- PlayStation Vue
Downloading files anonymously with Private Internet Access is a breeze thanks to its sheer speed and great privacy features.
Torrenting and P2P traffic is allowed on all servers, so you can enjoy fast file transfers and buffer-free Kodi streaming across the PIA server network.
It also has a VPN kill switch to keep your identity safe while you download or seed, it’s totally protected from IP and DNS leaks, and its logging policy ensures your traffic is kept private and anonymous.
During our tests torrenting speeds were fast however if you feel the need to optimise performance further, PIA allows Port Forwarding.
Specifically, you can port forward to ports 443, 80, 110, 53, 8080 and 9201. This can be done in Setting section of the Windows, MacOS and Android clients.
No good in China but works well in other countries
Private Internet Access is unfortunately unusable in large parts of China as the Chinese government has successfully managed to block it via the Great Firewall. Reports and anecdotes from users suggest that it may still work in Beijing, but access will be patchy at best.
Unless you want to spend a lot of time tampering with long-winded manual configurations, you’re better off finding another VPN service, though – our roundup of the best (still working) VPNs for China should help.
On the bright side, PIA will still work to unlock the internet in slightly less restrictive nations such as Turkey, Iran or Saudi Arabia.
Platforms & Devices
Works across all platforms, and router too
There are custom apps to get Private Internet Access running on all the popular operating systems, both desktop and mobile:
- Microsoft Windows
- Apple MacOS
You can use PIA VPN on a number of devices, up to ten in total, which is a huge allowance (the average is typically five). Manual setup guides are also available on their official website to help walk you through more obscure platforms or older OS versions.
Games Consoles & Streaming Devices
A custom app is available for Amazon’s Fire TV Stick but setting up the VPN app requires a little bit of technical knowhow. Once installed you’ll be able to easily stream your favorite video content but there are better VPN apps for Firestick out there.
It’s also possible to use PIA’s software with other streaming devices and games consoles, like the PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Google Chromecast. To do so, you’ll have to install the VPN at router-level so that any device connected to your home router is protected.
Encryption & Security
One of the most secure VPNs
DNS Leak Blocking
IPV6 Leak Blocking
Supports TCP Port 443
VPN Kill Switch
WebRTC Leak Blocking
Please see our VPN Glossary if these terms confuse you and would like to learn more.
After all this, you’re still probably wondering one question: is PIA VPN trustworthy?
We can safely say that the answer is YES. Private Internet Access is one of the most advanced VPNs on the market, sure to satisfy even the most demanding of users.
You get a broad choice of security protocols (including our favorite, OpenVPN), encryption (including AES-256), an ad and malware blocker (PIA MACE), and a kill switch.
It also features IPV6 leak protection, although it’s unlikely you’ll need that right now – still, it’s good future-proofing for when IPV6 penetration increases (you can learn more about IPV6 here).
On top of all that, we also found it didn’t leak our IP or DNS, which means we were protected at all times.
An added bonus: Private Internet Access operates its own DNS servers, meaning it doesn’t use third-party (rented) servers.
One small thing we’d change is that PIA also offers PPTP as a protocol, but not IKEv2. We prefer OpenVPN to IKEv2 as it’s more secure, but some users like that IKEv2 often gives faster speeds. On the other hand, PPTP is old and insecure and shouldn’t be used by anyone.
PIA is also open sourcing its clients to verify what you’re installing on your device and working to “create a transparent and verifiable infrastructure” that permits no one – including PIA – access to VPN servers, guaranteeing a no logs service.
Ease of Use
Updated app does wonders for usability
How to Install & Set Up Private Internet Access
In the past, PIA’s one glaring failure was its clunky, unintuitive and grossly outdated desktop app. Thankfully, those days are long gone.
PIA recently released a far more modern app 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 on’ option.
PIA has 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 app is better than before, but it still needs some refinement.
The PIA mobile app is quite impressive, though – with just as much configurability as the desktop app, plus some extra connection details.
Good online resources, not enough direct help
|Live chat Support||Yes|
PIA’s customer support is really disappointing. While they feature an extensive and well organized online knowledge base they don’t make it easy or simple to get in touch with someone directly.
There is no 24/7 live chat with the app, something almost all major VPN providers have. We’d love to see it featured soon.
You can live chat with support between 4pm-1am UTC, but you must be logged in to the member area to do so, meaning it’s only available to paying customers. If you’re thinking about subscribing and have a question or two, you can’t get an easy answer this way.
If you want to get specific with a query, you have to fill out a pretty extensive form that requires you to insert numerous details about your device and connection type, your anti virus software, distro version, bit version and more. To the non-tech people especially, this is quite frustrating.
Pricing & Deals
Very cheap yearly plan
Private Internet Access Coupon
Private Internet Access Pricing Plan
A month-long subscription with Private Internet Access usually costs $9.95, which is around the industry standard, but it’s currently discounted to $6.95 per month.
The monthly price does come down the longer you subscribe for and their 12-month plan costs $3.33 per month (paid as $39.95 per year), which is very competitive and almost the cheapest plan among top VPNs.
PIA doesn’t have a free trial and the money-back guarantee is only seven-days long (they should really make it 30 days…). At least cancelling within these seven-days is 100% no-questions-asked, and you’ll get your money back within seven working days.
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 like Mint, ecoPayz, and Neosurf, although they can’t be used to set up a rolling subscription.
The Bottom Line
Do We Recommend Private Internet Access?
The speed results speak for themselves: Private Internet Access is one of the fastest VPN services available in 2020, and is an easy recommendation for anyone looking for raw speed above all else.
It’s not the best for streaming Netflix, or if you’re a Fire Stick TV user – other VPN providers are better placed to meet those needs, like the suggested alternatives below.
Alternatives to Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access may be faster, but it's not as reliable for streaming as CyberGhost is. If you're a film and TV fanatic then CyberGhost is one of your best options - and it's affordable, too. Read CyberGhost review
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Slow and no Killswitch if torrent is running without VPN.
The price is good, the speed is slow, and no kill switch if you start uTorrent or other software and customer service is ok.Simon | Top10VPN Expert
Thank you for your review!
During our speed tests we found Private Internet Access to be one of the fastest VPNs currently available. It's worth getting in touch with customer support who can troubleshoot your speed issues, as the software may not be set up in a way that optimizes speeds.
With regards to the kill switch, PIA told us that "all versions of PIA come with the Killswitch options except the router set up" but "if your system has more than one network adapter installed (i.e. both Ethernet and Wi-Fi), then you would disable the unused adapter so the killswitch does not "kill" the incorrect connection."
We hope that helps!