Private Internet Access

PIA is an excellent VPN service that offers some unusual features not often seen in run-of-the-mill providers. While speeds are fairly average, power users will appreciate its great privacy, torrenting tools and all the added extras, while its capable Netflix unblocking is the cherry on top.

Private Internet Access

What is Private Internet Access?

Private Internet Access is an excellent VPN service that offers some unusual features not often seen in run-of-the-mill providers. While speeds are fairly average, power users will appreciate its great privacy, torrenting tools, and all the added extras, while its capable Netflix unblocking is the cherry on top.

Private Internet Access is an excellent VPN service that offers some unusual features not often seen in run-of-the-mill providers. While speeds are fairly average, power users will appreciate its great privacy, torrenting tools, and all the added extras, while its capable Netflix unblocking is the cherry on top.

 

FOR

  • No logging
  • Unrestricted torrenting
  • Reliable kill switch
  • Highly configurable

AGAINST

  • No iPlayer access
  • Average speed results
  • No third-party security audit

Founded in 2009, Private Internet Access is a well-established and trusted VPN provider known for its in-depth apps and extra functionality. Acquired in 2019 by Kape (also the owner of competitors CyberGhost and ZenMate), Private Internet Access has seen an explosion in the number of servers in its arsenal. 

If you only sign up for a month, Private Internet Access isn’t hugely affordable at $9.95, although even that’s cheaper than much of the competition’s rolling monthly plans. Sign up for a year and that drops to $3.33 a month, but the star of the show is the two-year plan which is just $2.69 a month – seriously competitive.

Private Internet Access also has excellent privacy and security credentials. You’ll get access to OpenVPN and WireGuard, and you’ll also be able to choose your level of encryption, plus data authentication and handshake methods. The apps are open source, the kill switch was effective in our testing, and the no-logs policy seems watertight – although an independent audit would make that concrete.

Speeds were changeable in our testing, and when using OpenVPN in the US, we saw averages of around 250-270Mbps. In Europe, things were similar, at around 240-320Mbps, and WireGuard saw speeds boost a little to 280-350Mbps. So, speeds are very usable, but not the quickest of the bunch.

Private Internet Access can unblock US Netflix, but several other libraries such as Canada and Japan were off-limits. Improving from last time, Disney+ and Amazon Prime were reliably unblocked, which will be good news for streaming fans. Torrenting is permitted on any server, and the port forwarding function is tailored to P2P sharers.

Desktop apps are simple and effective, with easy access to tons of additional features.

Features 

Number of servers: 33,000+

Number of countries: 78

Platforms supported: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, Opera

Simultaneous connections: 10

Split tunneling: Yes

Kill switch: Yes

Supported protocols: OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard

Support: 24/7 live chat, email, knowledgebase

Private Internet Access price and is there a Private Internet Access free trial?

Private Internet Access has a monthly, yearly, and two-year plan. The monthly plan is a fairly pricey $9.95/month, although this is better than much of the competition. The yearly plan costs the equivalent of $3.33/month, and the two-year plan is the equivalent of just $2.69/month. The two-year plan also includes a license for Boxcryptor, a service that you can use to encrypt cloud files on Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and more.

The two-year plan positions Private Internet Access as an incredibly cheap VPN and very nearly matches the price of Surfshark’s cheapest two-year plan. It’s worth noting, though, that Private Internet Access’s renewal price is the same as the initial term (sans the one-time two free months). Compare that to Surfshark, and in the long term, you’ll be saving a good chunk of cash.

If you’re looking for a dedicated IP address, you can rent one for $5 a month – there’s no discount for committing for longer. That’s a little cheaper than NordVPN, but CyberGhost is far cheaper at just $2.25.

There’s no VPN free trial, but there is a 30-day money-back guarantee. Private Internet Access supports a massive list of payment methods, from credit cards and gift cards to cryptocurrencies and bank transfers, so if you’re looking for a secure way to bag a bargain, Private Internet Access could be a great choice.

 

How private is Private Internet Access?

Private Internet Access scores highly for privacy. Its apps use OpenVPN and WireGuard, two of the latest, most secure protocols. OpenVPN uses AES-128 encryption by default, but you can bump that up to AES-256 in the settings. You can set the data authentication and handshake methods, including RSA-2048 and RSA-4096. To reduce the chance of DNS data leaks, Private Internet Access uses its DNS server, though you’re free to change this to your own.

If a VPN connection fails for any reason, there’s a chance that your real location is leaked. So, Private Internet Access includes a kill switch that cuts your internet connection immediately until the VPN is re-enabled. Unusually, this feature is also included on mobile apps, not just the desktop app, and in our testing, it worked 100% of the time.

Private Internet Access’s apps are all open source, meaning developers can pore over the source code to search for bugs or leaks. This can give you more confidence in the security and privacy of the software, as opposed to proprietary solutions that don’t always have the same level of rigorous oversight.

Install the Chrome extension and you’ll get additional privacy features, like the blocking of ads, trackers, and third-party cookies. You can use the extension to connect to the VPN from within your browser interface, but this only protects your browser traffic. A nice feature in the Chrome extension is the bypass list, which allows you to selectively choose which websites will bypass the VPN and which will go through it. Again, Private Internet Access’s Chrome extension includes many configuration options, making it an excellent choice for VPN power users.

Private Internet Access’s website tells us that it doesn’t keep any logs of any kind, and goes on to claim how it’s ‘verified’ as a zero-logging service. Rather than referring to an independent third-party audit, however, Private Internet Access makes these claims on the back of its Transparency Report – you can read it yourself here.

Essentially, Private Internet Access is regularly sent court orders, warrants, and subpoenas requesting information on its users, and the fact Private Internet Access has never handed anything over from one of these requests (because there’s nothing stored to hand over in the first place) effectively proves it does not log its users. That’s excellent news.

But, we still have to take this on trust – and we hope Private Internet Access takes the time and effort to undertake an independent audit to prove these claims once and for all.

How good is Private Internet Access for streaming?

One of the most popular VPN uses is to change location to access geo-blocked content on sites like Netflix and iPlayer – and we put Private Internet Access through its paces to see how it performed.

First up was US Netflix, and Private Internet Access was certainly impressed. On every server we tried, we were able to unblock US-only content. However, unlike services that truly specialize in this, Private Internet Access wasn’t able to unlock exclusive content from Canada, the UK, Japan, or Australia. For casual Netflix users, though, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

BBC iPlayer often proves difficult to access, and unfortunately, the BBC’s defenses were too much for Private Internet Access. We simply weren’t able to access iPlayer content.

However, performance improved when we tried to access restricted content on Disney+ and Amazon Prime, and we had success every time we tested.

So, in the grand scheme, Private Internet Access is quite a capable streaming VPN. However, a select few providers like NordVPN and ExpressVPN can unblock the full gamut of services and more regional Netflix libraries.

  

Private Internet Access Customer support                

Private Internet Access has a support center with articles for troubleshooting technical issues and problems with your account. The articles aren’t as detailed as those offered by competitors like ExpressVPN, but they’re numerous. A news page alerts you to the reasons for any system outage.

If you need help from a human, your options raise a support ticket or start a live-chat conversation. In our testing, we typically received replies to support tickets within five hours, which is lengthy compared to some other VPN services, and the live chat is a new development we haven’t had a chance to test yet. However, we expect it to be fairly similar to competitors’, which means an initially script-based chat, followed by (hopefully) more in-depth advice.

Private Internet Access review conclusion 

Private Internet Access impresses with its ease of use, wide range of clients, support for torrenting, and advanced features – and it’s also great value if you sign up for the three-year plan.

It strikes the right balance between usability and features with plug-and-play apps for all manner of devices, plus advanced functionality such as command line VPN control and multihop servers – and that's not to mention the incredible number of servers.

However, it lags behind class leaders like ExpressVPN inconsistency, and while Private Internet Access can unblock some geo-blocked content and speeds are usually fine, other services offer more reliable content unblocking that’s always fast and always works. Overall, though, it offers excellent value and is one to consider if you’re glued to your smartphone or tablet 24/7.

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