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Private Internet Access Review

Simon Migliano
By Simon MiglianoUpdated
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Private Internet Access screenshot

Private Internet Access: Ranked #6 out of 98 VPNs that we tested

Private Internet Access talks a big game on its website. In among all the technical jargon it boasts that it’s “the most trusted name in anonymous VPN service.”

Its name certainly promises as much, but can you trust Private Internet Access to give you the VPN speeds and security you need?

We’ve spent days testing Private Internet Access to answer all your questions, such as:

  • Is Private Internet Access trustworthy?
  • What does Private Internet Access do?
  • Does Private Internet Access work with Hulu?
  • Does Private Internet Access keep logs?
  • Who owns Private Internet Access?

Before we get stuck in, let’s take a look at the basics of Private Internet Access, along with what we found to be its main pros and cons:

  1. Excellent speeds - 87Mbps global average
  2. Easy, high-speed access to Netflix
  3. Unlimited P2P & torrenting
  4. Keeps no usage logs & no IP/DNS leaks
  5. 3,300+ servers across 32 countries
  6. User-friendly apps for PC, Mac, iOS, & Android
  1. Small server network compared to top-tier providers
  2. Based in the privacy-unfriendly US
  3. Email support can be slow, limited live chat
  4. Patchy access in China

Works with

Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Now TV, HBO, Sling TV, Torrenting, Kodi

Available on

  1. Windows
  2. Mac
  3. Ios
  4. Android
  5. Linux

Price from

$2.91/mo

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.

Speed & Reliability

Very fast and impressive speeds

Private Internet Access is a very fast VPN – its at the top of our list of the fastest VPNs

PIA’s best VPN servers are impressive for speed: if you live near London, New York or Toronto and want to connect locally you won’t find a faster provider in the current market.

We were also highly impressed with PIA’s global performance, with very fast average download speed of 87Mbps. This is one the highest we’ve seen from any provider, making it a fantastic choice for P2P users and torrenters.

Speed results from our physical location in London (100Mbps fibre optic connection) to a London test server.

Before using Private Internet Access:

  1. DownloadMbps

    92.31

  2. UploadMbps

    92.04

  3. Pingms

    2

When connected to Private Internet Access:

  1. DownloadMbps

    89.38

  2. UploadMbps

    86.53

  3. Pingms

    13

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%

As you can see, Private Internet Access features barely any speed loss on local connections.

It also has exceptional upload speeds – you can expect 268Mbps at the best of times.

More than that, gamers will love PIA’s practically non-existent latency of less than 1ms in some locations.

We put all of the VPNs on the site through a rigorous scientific speed testing process, determining the average speeds from multiple locations across the globe. These are the average speeds you can expect to pick up from these locations:

  • USA: 31Mbps (download) & 38Mbps (upload)
  • Germany: 85Mbps (download) & 72Mbps (upload)
  • Singapore: 26Mbps (download) & 9Mbps (upload)
  • Australia: 35Mbps (download) & 10Mbps (upload)

Server Locations

Small server list covers important locations

Globe with a blue flag32Countries
Image of a city landscape52Cities
Image of a pink marker3,300+IP Addresses

Private Internet Access’ servers are spread over 33 countries – a smaller selection than many of its big-name rivals, although every PIA location is courtesy of a real physical server.

While 3,300-plus VPN servers is a fantastic amount, it’s likely that there’s only one IP address for each. That’s a good number, but VPN services like IPVanish (40,000) and VyprVPN (200,000) have far more.

PIA VPN covers all the most popular locations in a good global spread, while 14 separate cities (and 1,500 servers) within the US is outstanding. There’s also city-level selection in the UK, Canada, Australia, and Germany.

Screenshot of Private Internet Access' Servers

Private Internet Access servers

Streaming & Torrenting

Good for Netflix, great for torrenting

Private Internet Access’ huge array of US servers means that unblocking Netflix is never more than one or two clicks away. We found access through its Washington DC, Atlanta, Chicago and Houston servers to be very reliable, and less so with US East, New York City, Florida and California servers.

Access to BBC iPlayer had recently stopped working for us, and Private Internet Access has said that rectifying it is not a priority for the service. Our most recent tests, however, had success accessing the service.

Private Internet Access is also a popular choice with viewers of a whole range of other big streaming services. Plenty of subscribers enjoy using Private Internet Access with:

  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Hulu
  • HBO
  • Sling TV
  • Sky
  • Now TV
  • PlayStation Vue

Torrenting

Private Internet Access is a very, very good VPN for torrenting.

P2P traffic is permitted on all servers and the market-leading upload and download speeds ensure rapid file transfers and buffer-free Kodi.

It 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 will be kept private and anonymous.

Bypassing Censorship

No good in China but works well in other countries

Illustration of a VPN circumventing the Great Firewall of ChinaPrivate Internet Access is unusable in large parts of China as the government has successfully managed to block it via the Great Firewall. Reports and anecdotes from users suggest that it still works in Beijing at least, for example.

Unless you want to spend a lot of time tampering with long-winded manual configurations, you’ll be better off finding another VPN service, though – our roundup of the best VPNs for China should help.

PIA will still work to unlock the internet in slightly less dilligent nations though, such as Turkey, Iran or Saudi Arabia.

Platforms & Devices

Works across all platforms, and router too

Apps

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

There are custom apps to get Private Internet Access running on all the popular operating systems, both desktop and mobile, while a router-level installation will cover everything else.

Private Internet Access works with Microsoft Windows, Apple MacOS, Android, iPhone and more.

You can use Private Internet Access on a number of devices, up to ten in total. Manual setup guides are also available on the Private Internet Access website to help walk you through more obscure platforms or older OS versions.

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 offers a custom app for Amazon Fire TV and Stick. Installing the app requires a little bit of technical knowhow, but once installed you’ll be able to choose servers all around the world and access your favorite video content.

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, by connecting them to a configured router.

Browser Extensions

Chrome LogoChrome
Firefox LogoFirefox

Private Internet Access also has browser extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera, which protect your browser traffic.

They’re just proxies, but still protect your IP address and prevent WebRTC leaks when surfing the web. You can learn more about the differences between VPNs and proxies with our guide.

Encryption & Security

One of the most secure VPNs around

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

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 Private Internet Access 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.

Private Internet Access Settings Screenshot

Private Internet Access settings

You get a broad choice of protocols with Private Internet Access (including our favorite, OpenVPN), encryption (including AES-256), an ad and malware blocker (PIA MACE), TCP Port 443, as well as 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 eventually becomes the new internet standard (you can learn more about IPV6 here).

One small thing we’d change is that PIA VPN offers PPTP as a protocol, but not IKEv2. We prefer OpenVPN to IKEv2, but some users like that it often gives you faster VPN connection speeds. PPTP, on the other hand, is old and insecure and shouldn’t really be used by anyone.

On top of all that, we also found it didn’t leak our IP or DNS – Private Internet Access operates its own DNS servers, which helps.

Logging Policy

Absolutely no logging information kept

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 a 2016 investigation and a 2018 court case. Rest assured with Private Internet Access.

PIA also release transparency reports, which you can read here.

Screenshot of Private Internet Access privacy policy

Private Internet Access privacy policy

Jurisdiction

Private Internet Access first launched in 2010 and is owned by London Trust Media, a firm with a diverse portfolio of products and a particular focus on privacy and tech. It’s based in Colorado, Denver, USA.

We would normally criticize a VPN for choosing the US as its base of operations, however, in the case of Private Internet Access we’ll make an exception.

The fact that absolutely no browsing logs are stored or monitored by PIA means that any prying authorities would have nothing to uncover.

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.

PIA has since 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.

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

Customer Support

No 24/7 support but good online knowledge base

Live chat Support
Email
Online Resources

24/7 live chat is the obvious absence from Private Internet Access’ support repertoire. It’s something almost all of its higher-scoring rivals have, such as StrongVPN and VPNArea, and a feature we’d love to see soon.

With PIA VPN you can only live chat with support between 4pm-1am UTC. You must be logged in to the member area to do so, meaning it’s also only available to paying customers.

The positive flip-side to this, though, is that PIA has one of the best online knowledge bases out there. It’s well organized and should answer almost any query or issue you have.

Screenshot of Private Internet Access Support

Pricing & Deals

Affordable on two-year plan

Private Internet Access Coupon

Private Internet Access

Get 65% off Private Internet Access's 2-year plan

  • Tested

Private Internet Access Pricing Plan

A month-long subscription with Private Internet Access costs $9.95. This is around the industry standard and isn’t very competitive.

The cost goes down the longer you subscribe for, though, with a two-year subscription costing $3.49 per month. Private Internet Access isn’t the cheapest VPN, but it is one of the best.

Private Internet Access doesn’t have a free trial and the money-back guarantee is only seven days long. However, cancelling within these seven-days is 100% no-questions-asked, with your refund arriving 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.

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon leads our investigations into VPN safety and internet freedom research. His work has been featured on the BBC, CNet, Wired and The Financial Times. Read full bio

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