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Private Internet Access Review

 85.518% 
(29 User reviews)
Private Internet Access screenshot
Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio

Ask Simon about Private Internet Access

Our Verdict

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a great choice for torrenting, streaming, and using public WiFi securely. It's a fast VPN with strong security and the largest server network. PIA's US jurisdiction is a drawback, but it's a verified no-logs VPN with a good track record for protecting user privacy.

Overall Rating: 8.8/10

We’ve put months of testing into this Private Internet Access (PIA) review, and it’s clear PIA is a very good VPN service for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux.

The service recorded of the fastest local connection speeds we’ve seen. It also offers well-designed apps, a VPN kill switch on all platforms, and support for torrenting on all 35,900 servers.

Moreover, the VPN is unique by having had its no-logs policy verified through server seizures and multiple real-life cases.

PIA VPN uses industry-leading encryption protocols including OpenVPN, the unbreakable AES-256 cipher, and Perfect Forward Secrecy. In fact, it’s one of the most secure and private VPN services on the market.

The VPN is also a great choice for streaming. It consistently works with many geo-blocked video services such as US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+.

The downside is PIA only works with five Netflix regions, which is less than most top-rated Netflix VPNs.

There is no Smart DNS tool, either. As a result, unblocking content platforms on devices like Apple TV and Roku is more challenging using Private Internet Access.

In summary, Private Internet Access is a great budget VPN, cheaper than ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

Private Internet Access Pros & Cons

Pros

  1. Very fast short-distance speeds
  2. Verified no-logs privacy policy
  3. Works with US Netflix & BBC iPlayer
  4. Torrenting allowed on all servers
  5. Huge secure server network
  6. Advanced & customizable encryption
Cons
  1. No Smart DNS feature
  2. Fire TV Stick app needs improvements
  3. HQ in privacy-unfriendly USA (FVEY jurisdiction)

Private Internet Access Key Data

Data CapNone
Speed98Mbps
Logging PolicyNo Logs
Data LeaksNo
JurisdictionUS (Five-Eyes Member)
Servers35,900
IP Addresses35,900+
Countries77
US NetflixYes
TorrentingUnlimited
Works in ChinaYes
Support24/7 Live Chat
Cheapest Price$2.08/mo over 26 months
Official WebsitePiaVPN.com

Private Internet Access Category Ratings

We test and review every VPN in eight key areas. Here’s how Private Internet Access performs in each category:

  • Privacy & Logging Policy: 9.9/10
  • Encryption & Security: 8.8/10
  • Speed & Reliability: 8.5/10
  • Streaming & Torrenting: 9.0/10
  • Bypassing Censorship: 9.2/10
  • Ease of Use: 8.3/10
  • Customer Support: 9.4/10
  • Price & Value for Money: 9.0/10

Learn more about our testing process by reading our VPN testing methodology.

PIA Works with US Netflix and BBC iPlayer

Streaming & Torrenting

Streaming & Torrenting Rating: 9.0/10

Although Netflix’s strong geo-blocks stop many VPNs from working with the service, Private Internet Access streams US Netflix with ease.

On top of this, PIA VPN is now able to also stream the UK, Italy, Germany, France, and Japan Netflix libraries. For the most reliable performance, connect to the ‘Streaming Optimized’ servers.

Private Internet Access Netflix

Private Internet Access consistently works with US Netflix.

However, if you want to watch the popular Canada or South Korea Netflix libraries, or stream additional Netflix regions, read our Windscribe VPN review, or our PrivateVPN review, instead.

Streaming UK Video Content

We also tested the “UK London-Streaming” server, and Private Internet Access unblocked BBC iPlayer every time.

For the time being, we can safely say that PIA now consistently works with all UK streaming services, including ITV Hub and All 4.

Access to Disney+ and HBO Max

Our tests verified that PIA VPN also works with many other content platforms like Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, and Amazon Prime Video.

On top of this, PIA’s fast speeds mean you won’t experience any lag when streaming shows in HD or 4K.

Overall, PIA is a great choice for streaming. But, if you want to access more than five Netflix libraries, then these streaming VPNs are better suited.

Secure VPN for Torrenting

Private Internet Access is a great VPN for torrenting. It is backed up by a strict no-logs policy, unlimited bandwidth, fast upload speeds, and port-forwarding, which increases the number of torrenting peers you can communicate with.

PIA also allows P2P and file-sharing activity on all of its servers, which is a much more direct approach than some competing providers.

PIA is compatible with all popular torrent clients including BitTorrent, Deluge, uTorrent, and Transmission. MACE, PIA’s built-in ad blocker, can also help block any trackers or malware you may encounter in the process.

As you can see from the screenshot below, we were able to successfully torrent when connected to all of PIA’s servers. Our torrenting experience was fast and reliable, and we quickly downloaded and played an episode of the show we were looking for.

A screenshot showing that PIA allowed us to torrenting and P2P share successfully.

We were able to download a torrent file very quickly while using PIA.

The app has no dedicated servers for P2P activity. Instead, you can use torrents from any location, with no bandwidth or other limits to restrict your activities. Simply connect to your nearest VPN server and start downloading.

Impressive Port Forwarding Tool

PIA’s port forwarding feature redirects incoming connections to bypass any NAT firewall.

This feature lets you increase the number of torrenting peers you can communicate with, and can drastically improve your P2P download speeds. The PIA settings allow you to forward to ports 443, 80, 110, 53, 8080, and 9201.

Effective VPN Kill Switch

All PIA apps come with a VPN kill switch to protect your traffic if your internet connection suddenly drops.

This is especially important when torrenting files. Without a working kill switch, your real IP address would be visible to everyone in the event of a VPN connection failure.

Very Fast Connecting to Nearby Servers

Speed Test Results

Speed & Reliability Rating: 8.5/10

When it comes to local (short-distance) connections, Private Internet Access is one of the fastest VPNs on the market.

However, when connecting to servers further away, speeds started stuttering, especially connecting to Asia.

Local Speed Test Results

Before using Private Internet Access:

  1. Download100Mbps
  2. Upload92Mbps
  3. Ping2ms

When connected to Private Internet Access:

  1. Download98Mbps
  2. Upload86Mbps
  3. Ping13ms

We measured our connection speeds before and after connecting to a Private Internet Access server in London, close to our physical location.

We recorded a percentage speed loss of just 2% — an incredibly fast result. This is the type of performance you can expect if you’re connecting to a US server from within the US.

PIA’s speed and performance is very impressive on local connections. We experienced exceptional upload and download speeds in our latest tests.

Aditionally, all the VPN’s apps have a quick-connect button to the fastest server location. This feature is called ‘Choose Automatically’ on the desktop apps and ‘Automatic’ on the mobile apps.

Screenshot of PIA's app, showing their 'Choose Automatically' feature which instantly connects you to the fastest VPN server.

International Speed Test Results

Long-distance connection speeds were less impressive, but still fast enough for streaming, torrenting, and web browsing.

We connected to servers in the US, Australia, Germany, and Singapore from our London office, measuring our speeds before and after.

As expected, the servers located furthest from our office in the UK recorded the largest speed losses.

We recorded an average speed loss of 74% when connected to Japan and 34% when connected to Singapore. This level of speed loss is not unusual for long-distance connections, though, so rest assured that PIA is still very fast.

USA (New York):

  • Download: 66Mbps (34% slower)
  • Upload: 38Mbps (57% slower)

Germany (Munich):

  • Download: 97Mbps (8% slower)
  • Upload: 72Mbps (19% slower)

Japan (Tokyo):

  • Download: 26Mbps (74% slower)
  • Upload: 9Mbps (90% slower)

Australia (Melbourne):

  • Download: 54Mbps (46% slower)
  • Upload: 10Mbps (89% slower)

Though its international speeds aren’t the best, we did find that PIA’s speeds are consistent and reliable.

We did not experience any unexpected drops in performance and found that connection times were consistently quick.

If you want the speediest option, find the fastest VPNs in 2021 in our dedicated guide. In short, if you are planning on using a VPN primarily for long-distance connections, it might be worth considering ExpressVPN or Hotspot Shield.

All our VPN reviews use the same scientific speed-testing process, and we always use the VPN’s fastest protocol to keep tests fair and consistent.

PIA’s Speeds Compared to Other Top VPNs

The graph below compares PIA’s average speed loss to 17 other popular VPNs using our custom VPN speed test tool.

We developed this tool in-house, using our infrastructure and resources. This allows us to display the unbiased speed results as they’re recorded.

VPN Speed Performance Comparison Chart

Compare Private Internet Access’ speeds across different cities

Private Internet Access is typically the fastest VPN on local connections. However, over the past few weeks, it has been outperformed by ExpressVPN on a New York to New York connection.

Still, these are very fast speeds from Private Internet Access, and it’s still matching another fast VPN such as NordVPN.

PIA’s main advantage is how consistent and reliable its speeds are. Over the period, PIA’s speeds remained in the range of 82Mbps to 92Mbps. In comparison, NordVPN’s speeds were more volatile, ranging between 77Mbps and 90Mbps.

As our chart shows, you can rely on PIA VPN to deliver the fast connections required for smooth streaming and torrenting.

Sadly, Private Internet Access is slower on international connections. For example, connecting from New York to London, speeds dropped over 40%.

While slower long-distance speeds aren’t unusual, they can be frustrating nonetheless. You may suffer slight buffering issues streaming BBC iPlayer or Netflix UK from the US.

Proven No-logs VPN Service

Logging & Jurisdiction

Privacy & Logging Policy Rating: 9.9/10

Private Internet Access keeps absolutely no logs, a policy that has been independently verified by several real-life cases.

You can use the service with complete confidence that your IP address and activity is not being monitored, stored, or linked back to you.

PIA VPN’s privacy policy states outright that all user activity is “NOT recorded, logged or stored at all.”

This commitment to privacy makes it a rare outlier among competing services that often collect some form of connection data.

Private Internet Access does collect your email address and payment details at sign-up, which is standard practice.

The verified no-logs privacy policy from Private Internet Access.

Excerpt from the no-logs PIA Privacy Policy.

Regular Transparency Reports

PIA also releases regular transparency reports that detail the number of requests for data it has received from government agencies.

Server Seizures

As we mentioned above, the VPN’s no-logs policy has been externally verified on several occasions.

The FBI subpoenaed PIA in a 2016 court case, but despite receiving an official data request, PIA simply had no information to hand over.

The Russian government also seized PIA servers in 2016 but did not find any retained connection or activity data.

PIA subsequently removed all of its servers from Russia in protest to this incident. A bold move we want to see more VPN service providers follow.

While there is no independent audit to verify PIA’s privacy and security offering, these court cases are real-world tests supporting the company’s logging claims.

Based in Privacy-Unfriendly USA

PIA is headquartered in the United States, which is widely considered to be one of the worst places to base a VPN company.

The US is a founding member of the Five Eyes (FVEY) intelligence alliance, which has automatic systems in place to collect and share surveillance data with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK.

The Patriot Act also gives US authorities sweeping powers to collect and retain data, especially through the use of National Security Letters.

We typically discourage using a VPN based in a Five Eyes country like the US. However, a verified no-logs policy can offset most issues posed by an invasive government.

After multiple real-world verifications, we are confident that PIA’s privacy policy and logging practices can withstand its privacy-unfriendly jurisdiction, and you can trust this VPN with your data.

Who’s Behind Private Internet Access?

In November 2019, Kape Technologies acquired Private Internet Access from London Trust Media Inc. (LTMI), a company with an established history in creating privacy tools, including PIA VPN in 2010.

At the time, the acquisition of PIA garnered a some controversy.

The bulk of the backlash stemmed from Kape’s past activities in the advertising space when it was known as Crossrider. We discuss more about this in our CyberGhost VPN review.

On the whole, PIA VPN has always gone above and beyond to champion digital privacy, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t trust this established VPN.

Equally, Kape is determined to move on from its Crossrider days and is doubling down on its commitments to privacy and internet security. It now operates three trustworthy VPN services, including CyberGhost and Zenmate, with a combined VPN subscriber base of over two million users.

Cost-effective VPN with a 30-day Refund Policy

Pricing & Deals

Price & Value for Money Rating: 9.0/10

Given its quality, Private Internet Access is currently one of the best-priced VPNs.

It has always been among the cheapest VPNs, but recent price reductions and feature additions have made it terrific value for money.

Three billing options allow you to pay monthly, yearly, and every 38 months. The best monthly prices are reserved for the longer-term plans.

PIA’s monthly plan costs $11.95 per month, although this drops to $3.33 if you pay for a year upfront.

The best value comes with the 3-year plan (which includes two free months). It costs just $2.08 per month, an 83% saving over the monthly plan.

  1. Monthly

    US$11.95/mo

    Billed $11.95 every month
  2. 12 months

    US$3.33/mo

    Billed $39.95 every 12 months
    Save 72%
  3. 3 years

    US$2.08/mo

    Billed $79 first 38 months and 36 months thereafter
    Save 83%

All plans have 30-day money-back guarantee

Payment & Refund Options

Credit CardYes
PayPalYes
BitcoinYes

While there is no free trial, PIA runs a 30-day risk-free money-back guarantee.

To cancel your subscription within the first 30 days, simply open a ticket with the PIA support team and ask for a full refund.

There’s also a wide choice of payment options including cryptocurrencies, PayPal, debit cards, and even gift cards, purchasable anonymously with cash.

Huge Network of 35,900 Servers Across 77 Countries

Server Locations

Globe with a blue flag
77Countries
Image of a city landscape
100Cities
Image of a pink marker
35,900+IP Addresses

Private Internet Access has the largest server network of any VPN. There are 35,900 servers in 100 locations across 77 countries.

This means traffic from PIA’s users is spread out across many servers, decreasing congestion and improving performance.

Minimized Server Loads & Faster Speeds

You can see how Private Internet Access’ server network compares to other VPN services in the table below:

The benefit of PIA’s huge server network is that it minimizes server load and increases the chances you’ll connect to a reliable and close-by server.

In turn, this makes PIA one of the fastest VPNs available, with an average speed loss of 3% on local connections. You can read more about the VPN’s speed performance in the dedicated section of this review.

Basic Server Labeling

Every PIA server is labeled by location, with only two dedicated streaming servers. This is a very simplistic approach to server locations that can present some problems.

The app should display server load so users can see which locations are congested at any given time.

As it stands, most users will have to cycle through their closest servers to find a location that works for them.

Very Good Worldwide Coverage

PIA’s VPN servers are spread out as follows:

  • Europe: 41 countries
  • Asia: 18 countries
  • North America: 6 countries
  • Africa: 5 countries
  • South America: 5 countries
  • Oceania: 2 countries

Its servers are mostly located in Europe and North America, but the spread elsewhere is very impressive. In practice, this means that wherever you’re located, you’ll be able to connect to a nearby PIA server.

Dedicated IP Addresses

The VPN also introduced an option to get a dedicated IP address.

This IP address is unique to you and remains the same every time you connect. Australia, Canada, Germany, UK, and the US are the only available locations, and it costs an extra $5.00 per month.

To our surprise, when we connected to one of PIA’s dedicated IP servers, we couldn’t unblock any streaming service. This is one of the main benefits of purchasing a static IP address, so we recommend avoiding this until the VPN service issues a fix.

Virtual Server Locations

Private Internet Access only uses bare-metal (physical) servers, but 41% of its server locations are virtual.

A list showing the virtual server locations in the Private Internet Access app.

PIA clearly labels its virtual server locations with a globe icon.

These virtual servers are labeled in the apps with a globe icon. They can be disabled by toggling off ‘Include Geo-Located Regions’ in the apps’ settings.

A virtual server location assigns you an IP address in your chosen location, even if the physical server is located elsewhere.

Virtual server locations allow VPN companies to offer IP addresses in countries where it’s very hard to operate a physical server. For example, we explain in our HideMyAss review how the VPN is able to offer a North Korean VPN server.

They can also improve performance if the physical server is closer to your real location than the IP address you’re assigned. However, if the physical server is much further from your physical location than advertised, performance may also drop significantly.

Using virtual server locations isn’t a problem if done properly. PIA’s clear labeling of these servers, alongside allowing users to disable them entirely, is a welcomed level of transparency.

Rented but Secure VPN Servers

We contacted a PIA representative who confirmed Private Internet Access rents almost all its VPN servers. We were told:

“The majority of our servers, if not all of them, are rented from third parties.”

The representative also informed us that PIA uses a “stringent vetting process” for these third parties. 

Most VPN companies rent some of their servers from data centers around the world. This helps provide users with access to a global network, but means you are forced to trust an additional party with the responsibility for your data.

Generally speaking, rented servers are not an issue if the VPN provider takes the time to audit all installed hardware along with the network environment it is operating in.

We asked PIA to explain their vetting process and how they can guarantee compliance from third parties. Sadly, PIA chose not to respond.

Though it is not unusual for a VPN service to rent its hardware, we expect PIA to be more transparent about its server ownership and its vetting process.

Strong Security, Encryption and Open-Source Apps

Encryption, Privacy & Security

Protocols
  1. IKEv2/IPSec
  2. L2TP/IPSec
  3. OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
  4. WireGuard
Encryption
  1. AES-128
  2. AES-256
Security
  1. DNS Leak Blocking
  2. First-party DNS
  3. IPV6 Leak Blocking
  4. Supports TCP Port 443
  5. VPN Kill Switch
  6. WebRTC Leak Blocking
Advanced features
  1. Ad Blocker
  2. Dedicated IP
  3. SOCKS
  4. Split Tunneling

Encryption & Security Rating: 8.8/10

PIA is an extremely safe VPN. We put it through a number of security tests and verified it will encrypt your internet traffic and hide your IP address.

Secure Protocols and IP Leak Protection

PIA supports OpenVPN, WireGuardIKEv2, and L2TP/IPSec protocols with the option to choose between UDP and TCP connections.

The default setting protects your connection with AES 128-bit encryption, but we recommend you select the AES-256 cipher in the settings interface.

There is built-in protection against IPv4 and IPv6 leaks, DNS leak protection, and a VPN kill switch on all platforms.

Our tests detected no IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks in any application.

Private DNS Servers

PIA also owns and operates its <own private DNS servers, which means your DNS requests are resolved by Private Internet Access rather than your ISP. The apps are flexible, too – the Windows client can also be set to use any custom DNS of your choice.

Screenshot of the Private Internet Access settings screen, which allows you to set customized DNS settings.

For extra security, PIA controls its own network of DNS servers.

Highly Customizable Encryption

Unlike a lot of VPN services, PIA gives you detailed control over the algorithms and protocols used to encrypt your data.

Adjusting your encryption settings is useful for optimizing performance and configuring the VPN to suit your security needs.

The default settings protect your connection with OpenVPN and AES 128-bit encryption. You can step up the encryption type to AES-256 (CBC or GCM) in the settings menu.

You can also choose the encryption level used for data authentication and the VPN handshake. These processes allow your device and the server it is contacting to verify the authenticity of the connection and the data being transmitted.

The default settings are for RSA-2048 and SHA-256, but you can go all the way up to RSA-4096 and SHA-384.

A screenshot from the Private Internet Access app, showing how you can customize your VPN encryption settings.

The PIA app allows you to fine-tune your encryption and security settings.

In short, PIA offers the strongest encryption available along with the option to choose the settings that work best for you.

The most secure settings aren’t selected by default, though, so we recommend changing them to the following configuration:

  • VPN Protocol — OpenVPN UDP
  • Data Encryption — AES-256 (GCM)
  • Handshake — RSA-2048

Advanced Security Features

Private Internet Access also comes with a range of advanced security features designed to improve your browsing experience.

PIA’s advanced features include a VPN kill switch, split tunneling, an ad-blocker, a private browser, and SOCKS5 encrypted proxy. Here’s what all that means:

VPN Kill Switch

A kill switch prevents your IP address from leaking in the event of a dropped connection. This is an essential feature for any premium VPN service.

PIA’s kill switch works on all of its platforms including Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS. Many top iOS VPN apps don’t feature a kill switch, which makes PIA a rare exception.

There are three separate kill switch modes: Off, Auto, and Always. The “Auto” setting will block outside traffic when the VPN is on, while “Always” prevents you from connecting to the internet prior to the VPN app launching. Sadly, the “Always” option is only available on Windows and MacOS.

Split Tunneling

Split tunneling allows you to exclude certain websites and applications from the encrypted VPN tunnel.

You can therefore give let certain services continue using your standard internet connection. This helps retain functionality with devices on your home network, such as your printer or Smart Home.

Split tunneling is available on PIA’s Windows, Mac, and Android apps, and it’s located in the ‘Network’ section of the desktop app’s settings. It’s not available on iOS at all.

A screenshot of the split tunneling feature available in the Private Internet Access VPN app, which worked successfully in our testing.

PIA’s split tunneling feature worked in all of our tests.

We tested PIA’s split tunneling setting by using apps that break if they don’t have access to the local network. We selected some apps to ‘Bypass VPN’ while all other apps were configured to ‘Use VPN’, and everything worked well.

PIA MACE

PIA MACE is a DNS-based malware and ad blocker found in the ‘Privacy’ section of the app’s settings. This feature blocks access to domains that are commonly known to host ads, trackers, and malware.

But, MACE is not a very good ad blocker. You can’t white list certain domains, or adjust the filter settings: it is simply On or Off.

An image showing Private Internet Access' adblocker feature.

The Private Internet Access app includes an ad blocker.

The inability to whitelist certain URLs means you have no choice but to keep the feature on, which ends up breaking certain websites.

Our testing also showed that MACE did not block as many ads as other ad blockers we have tested, an issue that has been reported several times by PIA users.

Inbrowser

Inbrowser is a private browser for iOS and Android. It offers a permanent private browsing experience that deletes your history, cookies, and session data every time you exit the app.

Shadowsocks Protocol

Shadowsocks is an open-source encrypted proxy that can be selected directly from the app’s interface.

Also known as SOCKS5, Shadowsocks’ speeds make it a favorite of torrenters and those looking to bypass internet censorship.

Users will require a different username and password to use the SOCKS5 proxy, which can be generated from the Client Control Panel.

Open-sourced Apps

All of PIA’s desktop applications, mobile clients, and browser extensions are open-source.

In simple terms, this means that absolutely anyone can view the applications’ source code, study how the apps are written, and contribute themselves by fixing errors and making code improvements.

There are very few VPN services that have chosen to open-source their apps, with ProtonVPN and IVPN being the most notable.

Leak Test Results

PIA comes with built-in protection against IPv4, IPv6, and DNS leaks. DNS leak protection is enabled by default on the MacOS app, but has to be manually enabled on the Windows app.

We can confirm that the desktop and mobile apps do not leak. We tested for IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks, and our real IP address in London was consistently protected.

Screenshot showing Private Internet Access passed our DNS leak test.

PIA’s VPN apps concealed our true IP address.

Virus, Encryption, and Tracking Checks

We checked the Private Internet Access VPN app for over 70 known viruses. This type of malware can be planted into software to gather information about your activities for advertisers and cybercriminals.

Screenshot showing Private Internet Access passing our test for viruses and other malware.

The PIA app contains no viruses or other potentially malicious files.

Private Internet Access tested negative for all 71 known viruses.

Successful Traffic Encryption

We also ran PIA’s apps through a packet-inspection program to ensure the VPN encrypts your traffic as intended.

We randomly selected various UDP streams transmitted during our session and inspected the visible data.

Screenshot of our investigation into PIA's encryption ability using Wireshark.

Private Internet Access successfully encrypted our activity in all of our tests.

As you can see in the screenshot above, our traffic was displayed as random strings of encrypted text.

This is proof that your passwords, account details, and other sensitive data is completely illegible to anyone snooping on activity on your network.

No Trackers but Some Permissions

Finally, we ran PIA’s Android app through εxodus — a privacy audit platform that scans apps for embedded trackers.

Trackers are small pieces of software that developers insert into their apps to collect data about you and your behavior. As a privacy and security tool, your VPN service must not overly track and trace your activity.

Report showing that the Private Internet Access Android app uses no trackers.

PIA’s Android app impressed us by containing no trackers.

We found that the Android app contains no trackers whatsoever. This is impressive, because many popular VPN apps include at least some trackers in their applications. ExpressVPN uses two, NordVPN includes five, and CyberGhost has as many as seven.

PIA’s Android app does require nine device permissions, though, which is a relatively high amount.

The most concerning permission requests access to your device’s camera, which according to PIA is needed “to scan QR codes for the new PIA gift cards.” This rather invasive permission should at the very least be made optional.

PIA Works in China Again

Bypassing Censorship

Bypassing Censorship Rating: 9.2/10

We test PIA VPN’s access in China weekly, using our test Shanghai server. We make a remote connection from within the country and verify whether PIA truly works in China, or not.

As of writing, we can confirm that Private Internet Access works in China. It also works in other heavily-censored regions such as Russia, Turkey, and the UAE.

To bypass the Great Firewall with PIA, use the OpenVPN protocol and enable the Shadowsocks proxy within the app’s settings.

The Great Firewall of China is the name given to the combination of tools utilized by the Chinese government to enforce mass censorship. This firewall, and those like it, are so effective that only anti-censorship VPNs can bypass them.

Illustration of the great firewall of China

Shadowsocks Beats Censorship

PIA uses Shadowsocks, which is a third-party proxy developed specifically for use in China.

Although Shadowsocks is not as safe or effective as proprietary VPN obfuscation tools, it will let you access popular apps and websites like Instagram, Facebook, Gmail, and WhatsApp.

Well-designed and User-friendly Interfaces

Ease of Use

Ease of Use Rating: 8.3/10

Private Internet Access’ updated VPN apps are easy to navigate, user-friendly, and still offer enough configurability for advanced VPN users.

Setup is instant, and connecting to your nearest server is just one click away.

The location menu lists countries and city-based locations, which can be sorted by name or ping time. A search box and Favorites system can help you find the server you need quickly.

Expanding the window reveals a range of other options for connecting to servers in particular countries, viewing real-time performance graphs, usage statistics, key settings, and your subscription status.

You can bookmark each option and add it to your default view, allowing you to customize your experience.

Overall, this is an excellent approach to user experience that helps beginners easily interact with more complex features.

PIA's app, showing the expanded app window.

In terms of usability, the new PIA VPN client also offers:

  • Light and dark mode
  • Settings to launch or connect the VPN on system startup
  • Different language settings

PIA’s dark mode is even better on mobile, as the app detects whether your iPhone or Android device is in light or dark mode and sets the PIA theme accordingly.
The light and dark mode available in the Private Internet Access applications.

In the section below we take a closer look at each PIA VPN client so you know what to expect the VPN service.

Apps for All Popular Devices

Platforms & Devices

Apps

  1. Windows Logo
    Windows
  2. Mac Logo
    Mac
  3. iOS Logo
    iOS
  4. Android Logo
    Android
  5. Linux Logo
    Linux
  6. Router Logo
    Router

Private Internet Access provides custom applications for every major platform including Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.

You can also use PIA on up to ten devices simultaneously, which is double the allowance given by most VPN services.

There are browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, and a custom app for the Amazon Fire TV Stick.

There is no Smart DNS tool available, so if you’re an Apple TV or Roku user you’ll have to install the VPN on your router.

There are a few notable differences between each Private Internet Access app that we’ll explain in detail in the following section. For an overview of the features available on each platform, you can use the table below:

PIA for Windows

The Private Internet Access Windows app offers the best balance of performance and features.

It is easy to install and immediately opens with a simple interface from which you can connect to your desired server location, access the settings menu, and view your real and virtual IP address.

Screenshot of the Private Internet Access app on Windows.

More experienced VPN users can click the downward facing arrow to access a wider array of settings. In this expanded view you can see the amount of data transmitted during your VPN session, activate the VPN snooze feature, and measure your VPN’s performance.

The PIA Windows app comes with a ‘Proxy’ tab in the apps settings, which allows you to redirect your VPN connection through one extra location. You can choose between the Shadowsocks or SOCKS5 proxy options, with multiple locations available.

Image showing the customizable proxy preferences available in the PIA app, including Shadowsocks and SOCKS5.

PIA’s Windows app allows you to route your traffic through one additional location.

The app runs in the system tray by default, which means that the client is pinned to the bottom right of your device’s screen. The option to detach the app from the tray is buried in the ‘General’ section of the app’s settings, which is hard to find for most people.

The Windows app does not support any VPN protocol other than OpenVPN and WireGuard, though it does allow you to choose between UDP and TCP. While OpenVPN is the industry-leading protocol in terms of speed and security, we’d like to see Windows users given the ability to choose from other protocols.

PIA for Mac

There are a few minor differences that make the Mac app more frustrating to use than the Windows client.

Image of the Private Internet Access VPN app on Mac.

Firstly, the PIA Mac app launches as a menu bar app by default. This means that the app cannot be conveniently placed in the dock or launched from Spotlight. Even when detached from the menu bar, traditional keyboard shortcuts do not work with the app.

PIA’s MacOS application is also very slow to load and operate. When running as a windowed app, the Private Internet Access Mac app takes 3 seconds to load — making using it feel like a chore.

These issues aside, the Private Internet Access client for Mac looks great and is easy to use. The app was very stable in our testing and experienced no interruptions or crashes.

PIA for Android

PIA’s Android app is by far the best of its mobile apps, offering advanced VPN features without compromising on simplicity.

The Android app offers a range of configuration options, with more settings than some competing desktop clients.

Most of the screen on the Android interface is simply white space, with a large connection button in the center of the screen.
Image of the PIA mobile app on Android.

Tapping your current server location will display a list of other options. Here, a favorites system means your most commonly-used servers will always be at the top of the list.

Android users can choose between TCP or UDP connections, request port forwarding, customize DNS servers, and adjust encryption settings.

The application can be configured to automatically protect you when accessing unknown wireless networks, or turn itself off when you’re using mobile data.

There is also a built-in kill switch, a split tunneling option called Per App Settings, and even an option to set your device to vibrate when you connect to a PIA server.

Due to restrictions enforced by Google, the Private Internet Access app downloaded through the Google Play Store does not come with MACE, PIA’s proprietary ad blocker.

To get PIA MACE on your Android device you have to download the APK file directly from the PIA website, where you’ll also find a simple step-by-step setup guide.

PIA for iOS

The Private Internet Access iOS app is almost identical to the Android version. There’s the same streamlined interface, location list, and large Connect button.

Image of the Private Internet Access mobile app on iPhone.

The iOS app has the best choice of VPN protocols of all PIA apps, letting you switch between OpenVPN, WireGuard, IPsec, or IKEv2.

There is also a large selection of configuration options, especially for an iOS app. You can set a custom port, change your DNS server, alter your encryption settings and enable a VPN kill switch.

The home screen allows you to quickly connect to recently used server locations and toggle network management settings, including the ability to automatically permit trusted networks.

There is also the option to use InBrowser, PIA’s private browser for iOS and Android.

Screenshot of PIA's adblocker on iOS.

PIA’s iOS app allows you to block ads and trackers through its Safari Content Blocker.

Despite keeping the simple and user-friendly design of PIA’s other VPN apps, the iOS app misses out on a couple of features.

Most notably, the iOS app does not offer MACE, PIA’s built-in ad blocker. But, it does come with a Safari Content Blocker, which can be found in your device’s settings menu.

Games Consoles & Streaming Devices

  1. AppleTV Logo
    AppleTV
  2. Amazon Fire TV Logo
    Amazon Fire TV
  3. Chromecast Logo
    Chromecast
  4. Nintendo Logo
    Nintendo
  5. PlayStation Logo
    PlayStation
  6. Roku Logo
    Roku
  7. Xbox Logo
    Xbox

Private Internet Access is a good VPN for streamers and gamers. It’s fast, with very little latency, and no DNS or IP leaks. All these components are essential for minimizing lag and keeping your IP address hidden.

Games consoles do not allow native VPN apps, so to get PIA working on your PS4, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch, you have to set up the VPN on your home router. The same goes for Apple TV or Roku.

This is not as simple as having a native VPN app, but it does allow you to protect all devices on your network without reaching the device limit.
Image showing that Private Internet Access can be installed on routers.

You can set up PIA client software on DD-WRT, Tomato, LEDE and AsusWRT routers. Or, you can buy a router pre-installed with Private Internet Access so you don’t have to set it up yourself.

Fire TV Stick App Needs Work

PIA has an attractive and easy-to-use VPN app for Amazon Fire TV Stick.

But, we were only able to stream US Netflix on 25% of US servers. This is significantly less reliable than the desktop and mobile clients.

At least, PIA’s Firestick app does unblock Hulu and Disney+, much like its mobile and desktop software.

Luckily there are plenty of Fire TV Stick VPN apps capable of performing much better than PIA VPN.

Browser Extensions

  1. Chrome Logo
    Chrome
  2. Firefox Logo
    Firefox
  3. Opera Logo
    Opera

Private Internet Access has browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

These extensions let you connect to a PIA VPN server directly from your browser’s interface, hiding your IP address and securing your traffic with Squid HTTPS.

Remember that VPN browser extensions only browser traffic, and will not secure the rest of your computer’s activity. If you want to encrypt and protect all your web traffic, use full VPN software.

PIA’s browser extensions come with many settings to explore, and on balance they work very well.

Bonus privacy features include the ability to prevent websites accessing your location, camera, or microphone, block Flash, and bypass particular websites.

You can also block third-party cookies, website referrers, and trackers. If you’re looking to keep it simple, you can also just choose a location and click Connect.

We strongly recommend enabling “Block WebRTC IP Detection” in the PIA Firefox extension. Otherwise, your IP address will leak through WebRTC due to a privacy vulnerability in the Firefox browser.

Image of PIA's Google Chrome extension successfully unblocking US Netflix.

PIA’s browser extensions allow you to stream US Netflix with ease.

24/7 Well-trained Customer Support

Customer Support

24/7 Live chat supportYes
EmailYes
Online ResourcesYes

Customer Support Rating: 9.4/10

Private Internet Access is simple to install and easy to use on all platforms, but you could still require some assistance.

PIA’s customer support is fortunately just as impressive as other top VPN services. And it’s now available through 24/7 live chat.

Live chat is initiated from the bottom-right corner of the official website. You are then asked to input your account details, like your email and account ID, before connecting to a support agent.

Screenshot of the verification stage of Private Internet Access' customer service.

PIA’s verification check allows you to save time and swiftly resolve your query.

By removing the need for a lengthy authentication procedure with the support agent, you get the answer to your query as soon as possible.

Screenshot of us receiving assistance from PIA's live chat support team.

PIA’s knowledgable customer support team was able to answer all of our questions.

Once you connect to a PIA support agent, you should have your issue resolved within minutes. We found all PIA’s support agents to be knowledgeable, courteous, and prompt to respond.

There is also a large, searchable online knowledgebase with articles covering troubleshooting, account problems, technical complications, and more.

Image of the different customer support options offered by Private Internet Access, including guides and email support.

The website’s guides section has articles covering setup and tutorials for all supported platforms. It should cover most general issues you might have with the app.

There is also a news section covering app updates, service issues, and more.

You can also contact a member of the support staff on the website’s ticket request system. While this system does work and users tend to report positive experiences, you won’t always get a fast reply. It’s also only available from 11 am to 7 pm (EST) on weekdays.

We Strongly Recommend PIA VPN

The Bottom Line

In summary, Private Internet Access is a very fast VPN with robust security and excellent technical features ideal for privacy advocates.

If you want a cheap VPN that provides good speed performance and security, then Private Internet Access is a great choice.

The service is well-suited for torrenting, with a verified no-logs policy, a VPN kill switch and P2P-friendly servers.

Also, PIA VPN consistently unblocks US Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer.

If you want an affordable VPN to stream US Netflix, or strengthen your security on public WiFi networks, Private Internet Access is a very good choice.

How Private Internet Access Compares to Other VPNs

Below is a table comparing Private Internet Access to two alternative private VPN services, ExpressVPN and Mullvad.

Private Internet Access
ExpressVPN
Mullvad
Overall Rating
8.8
9.7
8.0
Cheapest Price
$2.08
$6.67
$5.95
Average Speed
98Mbps
88Mbps
86Mbps
No. of Netflix Libraries
6
19
0
Servers
35,900
3,000
768
Countries
77
94
37
Money-back Guarantee
30 days
30 days
30 days

Alternatives to Private Internet Access

The new ExpressVPN logo

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN beats PIA in many key areas. Unlike PIA, ExpressVPN is based in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, unblocks many Netflix libraries, and it has a Smart DNS tool for streaming devices. Read ExpressVPN review

Mullvad VPN logo in horizontal orientation.

Mullvad

Mullvad shares many great features with Private Internet Access. Mullvad is a very fast and secure VPN with fully open-sourced apps. It's also one of the best VPNs for torrenting. Read Mullvad review

About the Author


  • Simon Migliano Head of Research at Top10VPN

    Simon Migliano

    Simon is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times, CNet and more. Read full bio


User Feedback for Private Internet Access

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