PrivateInternetAccess Review

PrivateInternetAccess

Private Internet Access is a US-based VPN that keeps zero logs; a claim that it has proven in court. PIA VPN has servers in 33 countries, it provides strong OpenVPN encryption, and is one of the most popular VPNs among Reddit users. In this Private Internet Access Review we take an in-depth look at this VPN and ask if it is worth your money.

ProPrivacy.com Score 8.4 out of 10
Summary

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a VPN service that has been respected in the VPN industry for many years. It is a US-based VPN that provides high levels of privacy and reliability. The VPN has a zero-logs policy, which it has proven in court. It also provides strong encryption and plenty of servers around the world. PIA is also cheap which makes it an attractive option for anybody looking for privacy and website unblocking services.

VPN Stats
  • Simultaneous connections 5
  • Countries 33
  • ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average) 16.1Mbit/s
  • Jurisdiction USA
Likes
  • Cheaper than most similar VPNs
  • Great for privacy and security
  • Lots of encryption options (including OpenVPN, our recommended protocol)
  • Fast connection speeds for streaming
  • Servers all over the world
Dislikes
  • Not the best VPN for beginners who need hands-on support
  • Doesn’t unblock some popular websites (Netflix US and BBC iPlayer for instance)

Alternative VPN Choices for You

From $2.99 / month
ProPrivacy.com Score 10 out of 10
Visit Site Read Review
From $6.67 / month
ProPrivacy.com Score 9.1 out of 10
Visit Site Read Review
From $2.75 / month
ProPrivacy.com Score 10 out of 10
Visit Site Read Review

Price

Private Internet Access can be purchased in three different subscription plans. All those plans offer the same functionality, they differ only in that the price becomes cheaper if you commit for a longer period of time. At $6.95 for a single month, this VPN is among the cheapest single month VPNs we have ever reviewed. And, paying $3.33 per month for a year is a really excellent price point that is extremely hard to beat.

PIA subscriptions can be purchased with a credit card, PayPal, and a number of online payment systems. Subscribers can also choose to pay using a variety of different gift cards including Starbucks, Bestbuy, and Walmart. This is great for paying with more anonymity (you could sign up with a burner email). In addition, PIA accepts Bitcoins and Z-cash.

For those looking to try PIA, the firm provides a solid 7-day money back guarantee period. This allows anybody to test the VPN risk-free for an entire week. 

We really can’t stress how cheap the one month PIA plan is. It allows you to trial the VPN for a whole month (or get your money back within 7 days) to ensure you love it before committing to the ludicrously cheap two-year plan that PIA also offers. Impressive.

Unblock Netflix?

When it comes to streaming content this VPN is Okay for most people. If your desire is a VPN for accessing streaming websites like putlockers, 123movies, Viooz, etc, then this VPN will protect your privacy and let you stream content for free - all day long.

However, if you specifically want a VPN for unblocking Netflix US; this VPN is not for you. Netflix goes out of its way to block VPN services and PIA gave up unblocking Netflix a few years ago. Sadly, the same is true of BBC iPlayer, which Private Internet Access no longer unblocks either. 

Features

Port forwarding
Total servers 3500
Countries 33
Simultaneous connections 5
Bare metal or virtual servers Bare metal
Router Support
Allows torrenting
Port selection

PIA VPN is a fully featured VPN that comes with a lot of advantages:

  • No logs VPN

  • Apps for all platforms

  • P2P Torrenting permitted

  • 3,236 servers in 33 countries

  • Lots of encryption options 

  • OpenVPN encryption

  • SOCKS5 proxy

  • 10 simultaneous devices

  • Obfuscated servers/stealth

  • Killswitch on all platforms

  • Port Forwarding

  • Auto-connect feature

Something this VPN does that is unique is to have server counts, locations, and bandwidth stats on its website. Users can also select each individual VPN server and do a speed check to see how it is performing.

Get PrivateInternetAccess

Speed and Performance

We test VPN speeds three times a day using a scientific server-based speed test system. Our servers test servers in Hong Kong, Australia, the UK, and the US for burst (max) speeds and download averages. Recent test results for the month of March 2019, are shown below.

Average downloads speeds of 23 Mbps are not bad considering the price of this VPN. Those download speeds will allow you to stream content in HD. However, it is fair to say that there are much faster VPNs available on the market. 

On the plus side, the burst speeds tested from the UK server to a local UK test server were fast (87 Mbps), which helps to reinforce that this VPN will perform to most people’s satisfaction.

We compared our speed results against the ones on PIA's online speed testing system. According to PIA, download speeds were 42.93 Mbit/s. Our test servers (I set the average to the last 24 hours) displayed results of 21.1 Mbit/s. Thus, we found PIA's feature to overestimate the VPN's speeds compared to our OpenVPN speed tests. However, it is possible that PIA tests its connection with a different protocol - which could produce faster speeds (but id be genuinely shocked if it doubled them). 

Leak tests

ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 81.9
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average) 16.1
IPv4 leak detected?
WebRTC leak detected?

We tested PIA for leaks using ipleak.net. Our tests revealed that it is a solid VPN that suffers from no IPv4 IP leaks, WebRTC leaks, or DNS leaks. No leaks were discovered on Mac when testing an IPv6 connection, either. 

However, we did discover an IPv6 WebRTC leak on Windows. Luckily this is of little concern because it can easily be plugged by disabling WebRTC in the browser, or by using the Easy WebRTC Block extension. The leak can also be plugged by disabling IPv6 connections in the Network and Sharing center. 

All in all a pretty good result, and it is nice to see that this VPN has a killswitch on all platforms.

Get PrivateInternetAccess

Privacy

Kill Switch
Obfuscation (stealth)
Self-hosted/Proxied DNS Proxy

Being based in the US is not ideal for a privacy service. The US government has passed legislation that it can use to force US-based companies to provide them with all the data that passes through their servers (not only the US servers - but servers worldwide). Luckily, however, PIA is a zero logs VPN, which means that it has no records to give to the authorities even if it is approached. 

On the other hand, it is possible that the US authorities could serve PIA with a warrant and gag order to begin keeping logs. This is a concern for anybody who needs watertight privacy protections. However, it is also true that PIA is one of the few VPNs that has proven its no logs claim in court; several times.

This VPN permits P2P downloading via BitTorrent, which is always a sign of a VPN provider that is not concerned about having logs sequestered by the authorities. 

Encryption

PPTP
L2TP/IPsec
SSTP
IKEv2
OpenVPN
Other protocols Cisco iPsec

PIA is one of the few VPNs that provides a large number of encryption settings in its clients. PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, and OpenVPN encryption are available. 

Subscribers can toggle through many different cipher strengths for OpenVPN, giving them the power to make the security of the VPN tougher or weaker (to get better performance). The VPN provides everything from strong to ridiculously strong OpenVPN implementation (meaning that it really has no weak settings). 

A killswitch on all platforms also guarantees people’s privacy. Here are the encryption standards for OpenVPN:

Data channel: AES-256 cipher, with strong SHA256 for authorization and a handshake of RSA 4096. 

Control channel: AES-256 cipher with SHA384 authentication. Perfect Forward Secrecy is delivered with a DHE+RSA exchange for RSA handshakes, or ECDHE+ECDSA for ECC handshakes.

This is extremely robust encryption, which will provide military-grade privacy and security of the data tunnel. While having a lot of encryption options may be a trifle confusing for beginners, in reality, it is very easy to set the VPN up. Also, having extra options is definitely a bonus of this service.

Customer Service

Free trial No
24-hour support
Live chat support
Money-back Guarantee

When it comes to customer service, you do get what you pay for with PIA. Unlike many premium VPNs, it does not have a live chat support feature on its website. This may put some people off. However, with such a reliable VPN it is unlikely that people will experience problems very often and the fact that it is possible to get support via email (ticket system) is probably going to be OK for most people. 

In terms of other resources, Private Internet Access VPN is outstanding. The website has an FAQ section and a blog that is well above average for the VPN industry in general. This is no surprise considering its connections to the privacy guru and Swedish political figure Rick Falkvinge. 

Perhaps my only quibble with PIA’s support is that it is advertised as 24/7 on its website. 

Pia Support Claim

We found this to be a little bit dishonest as I did have to wait around seven hours (and up to a day on one occasion) to get a response when we tested this out.

Again, you do get what you pay for in life, and, this VPN is cheap. However, because most people will likely never need support it isn’t necessarily a deal breaker. We’d certainly recommend giving this VPN a test run using the one month trial and 7-day money back guarantee. If it runs smoothly for a month, it is likely to work for perfectly on your system for two years.

User Experience

Windows
MacOS
iOS
Android
Linux

We found the user experience to be fantastic from the getgo with this VPN provider. PIA is a VPN that actually puts important information on its website so that you know exactly what you are getting in terms of features and encryption implementation. This is a breath of fresh air in an industry where it is common for details to be hidden away.

As far as its software is concerned, PIA has easy to use apps for all popular platforms including Android, Windows, Mac, iOS, and Linux. It also has guides for installing it on a selection of routers (DD-WRT, Tomato, PfSense, LEDE, Merlin, AsusWRT).

PIA also provides setup guides and tutorials for every single platform, which can help beginners to get the VPN going if they have any confusion. 

A SOCKS5 Proxy is also available to all subscribers on the VPN’s website (for all platforms).

Windows app

The Windows app comes with a Killswitch and obfuscation tech for getting around VPN firewalls. It also allows people to conceal their VPN use in countries where they are frowned upon. Unfortunately, we did discover an IPv6 WebRTC leak when testing this client - so you will need to disable IPv6 connections or disable WebRTC to mate the VPN perform securely. 

Overall we found this VPN client to be stable and reliable. It provides strong OpenVPN encryption a choice of encryption strengths, and both OpenVPN UDP or TCP.  We found speeds to be adequate enough to stream videos on YouTube and other platforms. And, it is a trustworthy client for downloading via P2P. 

Mac app

This client suffered no leaks on IPV4 or IPv6. That is excellent and means that the VPN can provide strong privacy and security straight out of the box. A killswitch is available and this client has obfuscation tech. An excellent VPN for Mac that has everything Mac users need to protect themselves both at home and on public WiFi. 

Android App

The Android client is exactly the same as its Windows and Mac counterparts. It comes with all the same privacy features, including the kill switch and a wide choice of encryption options. The auto-connect feature is also useful for people that want the VPN to connect every time they use the internet (great for people that move around and use public WiFi a lot, for example). 

Users can select between Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and User Datagram Protocol (UDP), which is handy for people who want to stream on their Android devices. I found the Android app to be stable and speeds were no different from those experienced in the desktop versions.

iOS app

The iOS app provides L2TP/IPsec encryption by default. It is an excellent app that comes with a Connect On Demand feature which works in coordination with the auto-connect feature to provide a killswitch like feature. It works by stopping any traffic from leaving the iPhone if the VPN disconnects. 

However, it is worth bearing in mind that this is a reactive in-app feature, so it is possible that you may leak data to your ISP if the client crashes. Overall, we found this to be an excellent VPN client that is good for gaining digital privacy both at home and on public WiFi. 

Final thoughts

PIA is a highly subscribed VPN service that is often praised by privacy-conscious individuals on Reddit. It is a VPN with high-quality clients that can provide robust levels of privacy. 

The VPN software is easy to use on all platforms, and, it has the necessary features to protect consumers’ data privacy. Customer care is sometimes criticized with this VPN, and the lack of 24/7 live chat does set it below many premium VPN services nowadays. However, remember that this VPN is cheaper than most of those services - and it is reliable which means you likely won’t need support very often.

What seems certain, is that PIA is ideal for more experienced VPN users who can benefit from some savings by getting a no-frills service with a less active support portal. 

Where speeds are concerned this VPN is not blinding, so if you are paying for a fast internet connection and are one of those people who likes to use a VPN at all times, you may want something a bit faster. On the plus side, speeds are stable and they are fast enough for streaming in HD.

It is true that PIA VPN does not unblock Netflix US or BBC iPlayer. If you want to access these kinds of services - you will probably want to look elsewhere. However, if you are generally happy watching free content on sites like putlockers or by downloading from the Pirate Bay - this VPN will probably tick your boxes.

An excellent VPN that is a real bargain considering how well it is equipped to provide digital privacy. Sadly, however, it would appear that Comcast in the US is throttling PIA users, which means that those US customers may want to look elsewhere.

Get PrivateInternetAccess


Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 4+ years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, Barrons, the Scottish Herald, ThreatPost, CNET & many more. Ray is currently rated number 1 VPN authority by Agilience.com.

97 Comments

  1. Brad

    on November 22, 2018
    Reply

    Hi, i get google dns entrys on some of the PIA Servers (mac os ; ios apps) if i check on dns leak sites. It´s definitely a PIA problem. I use other VPN´s too and get everytime dns entrys from the connected vpn server, only PIA shows sometimes google dns. Is this something concerning? Best regards

    1. douglas replied to Brad

      on November 23, 2018
      Reply

      Hi Brad, Seeing Google DNS servers is not usually a problem, as many VPN leverage Google but proxy the results so Google can only see that the DNS request came from one of their VPN servers. Although we prefer that VPN providers perform their DNS translation, we do not really consider this much of a problem. PIA has confirmed with us that it uses third-party DNS servers, but proxies all DNS requests through its own servers first.

      1. Brad replied to douglas

        on November 23, 2018
        Reply

        Thanks for your quick response. What bothers me is that I asked the support several times regarding the issue and they responded that they definitely don’t use google dns. I would have no problem if they would be honest, but stating to use own dns server and then denying that they obviously use google is a no go for a privacy company in my eyes. Best regards

        1. douglas replied to Brad

          on November 26, 2018
          Reply

          Hi Brad, Well... PIA has told us in clear terms that it uses third-party DNS servers (but proxies them). So it doesn't seem to be trying to hide the fact, in general. Maybe it was just a mistake o the part of the support staff member you talked to?

          1. Brad replied to douglas

            on November 27, 2018
            Reply

            I talked with 4 different customer support agents and everyone of them absolutely denied to use custom dns servers, proxied or not. They told me that they use only their own encrypted dns servers. I found this support page where the issue is described as well: https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/archive/forum/discussion/31148/dns-leak

            1. douglas replied to Brad

              on November 27, 2018
              Reply

              Hi Brad, Hmm. All I can say is that when we asked, PIA told us that it uses third-party servers but proxies the requests... I have no idea why there is a discrepancy between what it told you and what it told us. If what PIA told us is correct, then it is concerning that it is not being 100% honest with customers, but on a technical level, there is no major issue. If what it told you is correct then you are experiencing major DNS leakage.

    2. Brad replied to Brad

      on November 30, 2018
      Reply

      Support answered me that they had a misconfiguration on some of there servers. It is fixed now and the leaks have vanished.

  2. MarK M.

    on September 9, 2018
    Reply

    ATTENTION: Since September 2018 Private Internet Access speeds are around 3-5 Mbps at BEST. Incredibly slow! Don't purchase this crappy service if you want a reasonably fast VPN for your internet download needs (video, audio, etc.). Like the old saying says - you get what you pay for. Best to pay more and get acceptable NOT CRAPPY speed.

    1. Douglas Crawford replied to MarK M.

      on September 10, 2018
      Reply

      Hi Mark, Our always-running speed tests give PIA a global average 14.2 Mbits/s, with Max/burst speeds of 42.1 Mbs/s today...

    2. Brad replied to MarK M.

      on November 27, 2018
      Reply

      Thanks Douglas for clarifying. As you can see in my link from the PIA forum I´m not the only one who is experiencing such issues. I´m pretty sure that everything is setup correct from my side and as I said before other VPN´s work without any issues on my phone or mac. I use now another DNS resolver from another VPN company in the app settings (you can set custom dns resolvers) . If i do this, there are no leaks. Am I safe now, beacause my requests go now to another resolver, but should be encrypted through PIA? Or am i wrong? Thanks in advance!

      1. douglas replied to Brad

        on November 29, 2018
        Reply

        Hi Brad, It depends on your threat model. It probably doesn't, but in theory your ISP can snoop on unencrypted DNS requests sent to a third-party DNS resolver. If this worries you then consider using DNSCrypt (if your chosen resolver supports it). Please see https://proprivacy.com/guides/how-to-change-your-dns-settings-a-complete-guide/#appendix for more details. The advantage of using your VPN provider's DNS resolution is that all requests are sent through the VPN tunnel, and are therefore already encrypted for your ISP can't see them (thereby making DNSCrypt redundant).

  3. Tomas

    on July 20, 2018
    Reply

    PIA has the worst customer support of any company I've ever dealt with, and I'm not just talking VPNs. I'm saying of every single company I've ever dealt with in my life PIA is the worst. And even that isn't the half of it. In the two years I was a PIA customer they've had one debacle after another. The biggest debacle of all is Andrew Lee's decision to recently appoint Mark Karpeles as PIA's CTO, the same Karpeles that headed up Mt. Gox, the biggest Bitcoin exchange. In 2015 Mt. Gox experienced the biggest heist of Bitcoins ever, $480million. The FBI discovered that at the same time as the Bitcoins vanished $2.3million mysteriously materialized in Karpeles personal Bitcoin wallet. Karpeles has been under arrest since 2015 in Japan and is awaiting trial there for fraud and embezzlement. At the very least Karpeles is one of the most incompetent and ignorant "security experts" the world has ever seen. At worst he's a thief who robbed his own customers, many of them of their life savings. Andrew Lee's decision to appoint such a man to oversee PIA's security is the most reckless and idiotic thing I've ever witnessed in corporate America. Subscribing to a VPN is all about trust. PIA isn't a company worthy of anyone's trust.

  4. Scottie

    on June 26, 2018
    Reply

    "...customer care problems (that were being reported regularly last year) appear to have been fixed." Um, no. And we're not just talking last year either. Their customer support went to hell in a handbasket in 2015 and has never gotten better. Your review would have been more meaningful had it not been just a personal snapshot but had you referred to the hundreds and hundreds of customer complaints posted on PIA's own forums and their subreddit. Of all the VPNs I’ve subscribed to in the past dozen years PIA is one of the worst. Slow if not non-existent customer service, technically incompetent tech support, buggy software, and more marketing BS than any company I’ve ever dealt with. PIA has often been referred to by PIA customers (like me) as "The Walmart of VPNs." As such they hardly deserve a 8.9/10 rating. Yes, they're one of the cheaper VPNs, but in my view they're not even worth the low price. For all the headaches they're likely to cause you they're just not worth it. Better to spend a little more and go with a VPN that's actually rates an 8.9.

Write Your Own Comment

Your comment has been sent to the queue. It will appear shortly.

Your comment has been sent to the queue. It will appear shortly.

Your comment has been sent to the queue. It will appear shortly.

  Your comment has been sent to the queue. It will appear shortly.