Private Internet Access (PIA) is a renowned VPN service launched in 2010 by London Trust Media, Inc. that also holds brands like BlockExplorer, Freenode, and NW.js. The company is incorporated in Denver, which is not an ideal location for a VPN, but the transparency report on the official PIA website with zero court orders, subpoenas, and warrants guarantees optimal user privacy.
PIA is one of the most transparent VPN services out there, with its parent company investing heavily in revolutionary startups related to cybersecurity, so if you want to learn more about its features and see the results of our exhaustive performance testing, keep reading this unbiased Private Internet Access review.
Speed & Performance
Our testing team located in Belgrade, Serbia (Europe) monitored 20 PIA VPN servers over a period of one week to gauge its overall performance and stability levels. We also used this opportunity to test the software against different regional versions of Netflix and check how it handles torrenting.
When it comes to sheer speeds, our top performers were the servers in Sidney, Toronto, New York, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Frankfurt, Bucharest, and surprisingly New Delhi and Hong Kong. Due to our location, we usually get subpar performances on servers in India and China, which makes PIA all the more impressive.
Apart from locations that retained between 80% and 90% of our original speed, the servers in Miami (65.45%), Vancouver (79.66%), and Auckland (77.02%) also performed quite admirably. When it comes to subpar performance, we can only mention Singapore and Perth that managed to retain only 13.31% and 17.05% of our benchmark speed, respectively.
Connecting to any specific server did take some time (between 20 and 50 seconds), but once the connection was established, everything ran pretty smoothly and without any interruptions or disconnects.
|Location||Ping (ms)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)|
|New York, US||117||43.61||2.08|
|Los Angeles, US||182||29.11||7.3|
Private Internet Access supports Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 (both 32 and 64-bit), macOS 10.12+ (64-bit only), Linux Ubuntu 16.04+, Mint 18+, Debian, and Arch (64-bit and desktop only), Android 4.1+, and iOS 9+. Apart from its software for various operating systems, PIA features browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. Lastly, you can also use it on flashed DD-WRT and Tomato routers.
Even though you might get the software to work on depreciated operating systems, note that PIA does not provide any technical support for them due to potential security issues that are no longer addresses by their manufacturers.
PIA currently features 3,300+ servers located in 30 countries around the world. The company is extremely vigilant when it comes to its server network, which resulted in the removal of its gateways in Brazil and South Africa. At some point, the gateway in Germany was also removed due to some unsafe practices allowed by PIA’s datacenter partner. This location, however, has been re-launched.
If you do not require the extra security provided by VPN servers, you have SOCKS5 proxy at your disposal as well. This will allow you to access geo-restricted platforms, use BitTorrent-based apps, and hide your real IP address without encryption slowing down your connection.
PIA guarantees unlimited bandwidth and server switching and offers up to 10 simultaneous connections. However, the company does not provide its services in Iran, Cuba, Myanmar, Sudan, Syria, and North Korea.
Safety & Security
Private Internet Access supports OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP connection protocols. We recommend opting for OpenVPN since it provides the optimal balance between speed and security for average VPN users. Both TCP and UDP connectivity is available, so you may switch to UDP to get a bit more speed at the cost of reliability.
When it comes to encryption, PIA utilizes AES-128/256 GCM and CBC. The official website does mention Blowfish CBC, but we did not see this option in the client. If you are suffering slow connection speeds, you can opt for AES-128 without any worries for your privacy and security since this cipher is more than enough to protect you from malicious online entities, no matter what security sites may claim. Furthermore, the handshake options are more than impressive, incorporating RSA-2048/3072/4096 and ECC-256k1/256r1/521.
PIA also comes with optional split tunneling, which allows you to exclude certain applications from VPN protection. If you opt to use this functionality, the software will install a split tunnel filter on your device. There is also the option of using port forwarding, but not all locations support this feature.
The so-called “PIA Mace” feature enables you to block certain domains used for malware, trackers, and ads. Finally, there is a reliable killswitch implemented to block your Internet connection in case your VPN gets compromised.
During our tests for this Private Internet Access review, we did not experience any IP or DNS leaks, which means our true location and IP address were perfectly concealed at all times.
Logging & Privacy
Private Internet Access collects the following personal information:
- Email address – Used to confirm payments, send subscription information, correspond with clients, and send promotional offers.
- Payment data – Used to manage signups, payments, and cancelations.
- Temporary affiliate cookie – Used to improve service delivery and monitor control panel logins.
PIA also uses Google Analytics to monitor the usage of its official website and stores the time and date of your registration. The company does not collect any traffic logs or IPs that could be used to identify its clients as individuals. In other words, even if the US government serves PIA with a warrant and a gag order, there is nothing dangerous to be handed over. Furthermore, even if the request passes PIA’s legal team, the company allows its users to file a complaint and object to any requested disclosures.
PIA will retain your information indefinitely unless you request data deletion. From the moment of your request, it can take up to 30 days for your data to be purged from the system.
Apart from the right to request data erasure, you can access your data at any given moment, object to data processing, withdraw consent, restrict processing, rectify your data, and receive it in a commonly-used format (the so-called right to portability).
Our testing team in Belgrade, Serbia managed to access and stream Netflix US and UK without any problems. However, other relevant versions of the platform like Netflix Japan, Germany, and France served us with the infamous proxy error. Private Internet Access was able to restore its access to Netflix US and UK recently and we hope it manages to keep this functionality for as long as possible. We also successfully unblocked Crunchyroll, which is great news for all anime lovers out there.
PIA does allow torrenting on its servers and provides users with SOCKS5 proxy as well. Turning on the killswitch, however, is definitely a good idea if you are experiencing connection stability issues on a regular basis.
Having said that, the company does NOT allow any illegal downloads or sharing of copyrighted content. However, we did not see any mechanisms that would allow it to identify P2P filesharing or differentiate it from any other form of traffic.
As we already mentioned in this Private Internet Access review, the speeds are pretty impressive, which makes it an excellent choice for torrenting, no matter which BitTorrent client you are currently using.
Plans & Pricing
Private Internet Access features 3 different subscription plans, including a 1-month deal for $6.95 per month, a 6-month plan for $5.99 per month ($35.95 per 6 months), and a full 1-year package for $3.33 per month ($39.95 per 1 year).
The accepted payment methods include credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and JCB), PayPal, Amazon Pay, BEAM, and cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Zcash, Ethereum, and Litecoin). Every purchase comes with a 7-day money-back guarantee, even if you opt for payment in crypto.
PIA does not have a live chat feature on the official website, but its knowledgebase, FAQ sections, installation guides, and forums are perfectly capable of answering any questions you might have at any given point. According to the company, you can receive customer support 24/7, which is a bit overblown since you will have to wait after submitting a support ticket.
Bottom line, the company’s customer support is beyond impressive, but we would still like to see PIA implementing a live chat and being truly available 24/7. Note that the company has a 60-day ticket retention policy, so you will not be able to use historical tickets to prove your point or describe previous problems.
Private Internet Access Pros & Cons
As we wrap up this PIA review, here’s a quick overview of the features that wowed us and the aspects of the service that could use some improvement.
- Excellent speeds & connection stability
- Support for all major platforms and browsers
- 3,300+ servers in 30 countries
- SOCKS5 proxy
- Solid security package
- Automatic killswitch
- Ad-block and tracking/malware protection
- No DNS leaks
- Works With Netflix US/UK
- Torrenting is allowed
- Budget-friendly prices
- 7-day money-back guarantee
- Cryptocurrencies are accepted
- No live chat
- Located in the US