Private Internet Access Review

Private Internet Access VPN is a US-based provider with a zero-logs claim that has been proven in court. Recently, PIA was acquired by Kape Technologies – a CyberSec firm based in London whose primary aim is to help consumers gain protection online. PIA has more than 15,730 servers in 74 countries, provides strong OpenVPN encryption and is one of the most popular VPN services among Reddit users. It also has live chat support and full access to Netflix US.

Having been around since 2010, Private Internet Access (PIA) is a well-respected VPN service. Whilst some customers may be concerned about its US headquarters, the VPN has a zero-logs policy – which more than makes up for it. In addition, PIA has easy-to-use apps for all popular platforms that provide strong encryption, and a super choice of servers from around the world. PIA is also a cheap VPN service that performs well above its pay grade. Despite the budget price (if purchased yearly), PIA unblocks a decent amount of highly sought after content – including Netflix (multiple regional libraries) and BBC iPlayer.

Our Score
4.6 / 5
Pricing
$2.19/mo - $11.00/mo
Simultaneous connections
10
Server Locations
74 countries
Jurisdiction
USA
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average)
62.2 Mbps
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Price

Private Internet Access can be purchased in three different subscription plans. Each plan offers the same functionality and differs only in that the price becomes cheaper for those who commit for a longer period of time.

At $10.51 for a single month, we generally consider Private Internet Access to be an averagely priced service. This is neither an expensive nor cheap price tag – subsequently, most people will be able to make use of the VPN on vacation at a reasonable cost.

The VPN stands out from the crowd thanks to its yearly subscription plan. Costing $42.19, the plan works out at just $3.52 a month. This is a shockingly good price when you consider the caliber of Private Internet Access' service.

For those who'd rather subscribe for a 24-month period, a $74.01 yearly plan is available. Currently, Private Internet Access is offering an additional two-months free when you subscribe to this tier, which works out at a reasonable $2.84 per month.

Private Internet Access Pricing

PIA subscriptions can be purchased by credit card, PayPal, and several online payment systems. Subscribers can also opt to pay with a variety of gift cards including Starbucks, Best Buy, and Walmart. This is great for paying with more anonymity (you could also sign up with a burner email). In addition, PIA accepts Bitcoins for those who prefer crypto.

If you like the sound of PIA and want to give it a test run, the firm provides a solid 30-day money-back guarantee period. This allows you to test the VPN risk-free for an entire month. This is a vast improvement on its previous 7-day VPN trial period and is a big thumbs up to the new owner, Kape Technologies.

Overall, we can’t stress how cheap PIA is when purchased with a yearly subscription. Considering the improvements PIA has made in terms of unblocking content, the price is definitely a winner. (It is also worth noting that PIA sometimes has seasonal special offers that bring the price down – so it's well worth clicking through to the site to see which discounts are currently available).

Unblock Netflix?

As of September 2020, Private Internet Access unblocks major streaming providers such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer. As well as unblocking the US library (let's face it, that's what most of us are after), the provider also successfully unblocks Netflix UK, Germany and Japan.

This is great news for subscribers. PIA is now an excellent VPN for streaming, and if you'd like to access restricted streaming sites like Putlocker, 123movies, Viooz, etc – this VPN will protect your privacy and let you check out content for free all day long.

All in all, PIA is considered an outstanding option for anyone looking for a Netflix VPN. And, considering the cost of a PIA subscription, it's a service that's definitely going to win over a lot of customers.

Features

Simultaneous connections 10
Total servers 15730
Server Locations 74
Split Tunneling

Private Internet Access is a well-rounded provider that comes with an impressive roster of features.

Users can take advantage of up to 10 simultaneous connections, and Private Internet Access is compatible with all platforms – Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS. There are also browser extensions available for Chrome, Firefox and Opera.

Private Internet Access has recently expanded its server network. Currently, there are 12,358 servers in 74 locations – they're all quick (read on for more details), with unlimited bandwidth, and Private Internet Access offers dedicated obfuscation/stealth servers, too.

In fact, the service comes with a generous amount of encryption options inside the app. Private Internet Access is also a no-logs provider, and lists 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.

Other outstanding features include:

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Speed and Performance

We monitor VPN speeds three times a day using a server-based system. Our test servers check VPN IP addresses in Hong Kong, Australia, the UK, and the US for max speeds and average download speeds. Below, you'll find our test results for the months of July through September 2020.

Speed Test

An average download speed of 37.7 Mbps is more than adequate for streaming – so you won't encounter frequent buffering or hiccups on your next Netflix marathon. PIA's max download speed reaches 676.2 Mbps, surpassing even ExpressVPN – a provider known for its lightning-fast speeds.

These download speeds will allow you to stream content in HD and do other data intensive tasks such as gaming or video conferencing.  Thus, PIA is now consistently one of the fastest VPNs available on the market. 

Leak tests

IPv6 leak detected?
WebRTC leak detected?
IPv4 leak detected?
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (max/burst) 254.93
ProPrivacy.com SpeedTest (average) 62.2

We tested PIA for leaks using our industry standard VPN leak testing tool.  Our tests revealed that PIA is a solid VPN that suffers from no IPv4, IPv6, WebRTC, or DNS leaks. These are perfect results.

Private Internet Access Leak Test

No leaks were discovered on Mac or Windows when testing on an IPv6 connection, and IPv6 was disabled automatically by the VPN software to ensure that there are never any leaks to worry about. 

It is also nice to see that PIA VPN has a kill switch on all platforms – making this VPN more than trustworthy enough for people who want to torrent.

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Privacy

Kill Switch
Obfuscation (stealth)
Bare Metal Servers?
Self-hosted DNS

Being based in the US is not ideal for a privacy service. The US government enforces warrants and gag orders that can be used to force US-based companies to provide them with all the data that passes through their servers. 

To counteract this, PIA has a zero logs VPN, so it has no records about what its subscribers do when connected to the VPN. This means it has nothing to supply US authorities, even if it is approached. 

Admittedly, it is possible that the US authorities could serve PIA with a warrant and gag order to store logs. This might be a concern depending on your personal threat model. However, it is worth noting that PIA is one of the few VPNs that has proven its no logs claim in court; several times. In our opinion, that makes PIA a VPN provider that deserves trust and respect.

In addition, this VPN permits P2P downloading via BitTorrent, which is generally the 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
WireGuard

PIA is one of the few VPNs that provides a large number of encryption settings in its clients. And we are happy that PIA has completely removed outdated protocols like PPTP from its clients. Instead, users must now stick to OpenVPN or IKEv2 (on iOS).

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 very strong OpenVPN implementation (meaning that it really has no weak settings). And a kill-switch is available on all platforms to ensure privacy is maintained even when the VPN connection drops out.

Below we have included the maximum encryption standards for OpenVPN that are available in the clients:

  • Data channel: AES-256 cipher, with strong SHA256 for authorization and a handshake of RSA 4096. 
  • Control channel: AES-256 cipher with SHA384 authentication. It delivers Perfect Forward Secrecy with a DHE+RSA exchange for RSA handshakes, or ECDHE+ECDSA for ECC handshakes.

This is extremely robust encryption that will provide military-grade privacy and security for the VPN tunnel. Although having a lot of encryption options may be a trifle confusing for beginners, in reality, it is very easy to set this VPN up (because it comes preset to reasonable standards by default). We think having these extra setup options is one highlight of this service.

Customer Service

Money-back guarantee length 30
Money-back Guarantee
24-hour support
Live chat
Free Trial

PIA's customer service once faced sharp criticism, but has since come on in leaps and bounds. Now, a live chat support service is available during US business hours. This is a vast improvement for the VPN, and means that users have access to instant support for a large part of the day.

It's also worth mentioning that PIA has always been extremely reliable – and easy to set up. As a result, people will rarely require help. If you have trouble using the service, you can rely on the email ticket or live chat system. We found responses arrived within a few hours of creating a ticket, which is excellent.

PIA also provides outstanding customer support resources. The website has an FAQ section and a blog that provides interesting news articles surrounding privacy tech and legislation from around the world. Users can access several in-depth guides that are well written and easy to follow.

In conclusion, PIA customers can now expect the sort of customer support that comes with a premium VPN – though PIA is still a budget-friendly provider.

User Experience

Android
iOS
Windows
macOS
Linux

We found the user experience to be fantastic from the getgo with this VPN. PIA is a provider that actually provides important information about the service on its website; this allows prospective subscribers to get a clear idea of the apps' features. This is a breath of fresh air in an industry where often important details are 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). And, PIA provides setup guides and tutorials for every single platform, which will help beginners to get the VPN set up.

A Shadowsocks proxy can also be configured within the clients to permit users to redirect the VPN connection through an additional location. And a SOCKS5 Proxy can be configured in the members area of the website and activated in the VPN client. These proxies are great for people living in places like China.

Windows app

The PIA Windows VPN app comes with a Killswitch to stop you leaking data to your ISP should the VPN connection fail. No dedicated obfuscation tech for getting around VPN firewalls is available (Obfsproxy, Stunnel, or XOR for example). However, users can opt to send their TCP traffic over port 443 to disguise it as regular HTTPS traffic. This will allow PIA users to bypass firewalls and/or conceal their VPN use in countries where they are frowned upon. 

Newly added to the app this year, users can also find split tunneling and port forwarding, which are useful extras. Split tunneling will let you send some traffic inside the tunnel and some outside of the tunnel. This permits you to use your real IP address for some tasks, while ensuring that the rest of your traffic is safely encrypted in the VPN tunnel at the same time.

Network Preferences

Port forwarding is a fairly rare VPN feature that allows users to improve their torrenting speeds, remote access their PC while away from home, or access personal games or media servers set up on their LAN. The availability of these extra features is excellent considering the cost of this VPN.

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 superb using this client, and it is definitely an ideal VPN for streaming more content, torrenting, or watching US Netflix.

Mac app

We tested the Mac VPN client and found it to suffer no leaks on IPV4 or IPv6. That means that the VPN can provide strong privacy and security straight out of the box. A kill switch is available, and this client provides obfuscation in the same way as its Windows counterpart. This makes the VPN ideal for torrenting, and great for people living in places like China and Iran.

As with the Windows client, the most recent PIA client for macOS provides a lot of customization and gives users access to advanced features such as the SOCKS5 or Shadowsocks proxies, split tunneling, and port forwarding. Port selection is also available to allow users to conceal OpenVPN TCP as regular HTTPS on port 443.

Overall, we found this to be 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 VPN client is very similar to its Windows and Mac counterparts. It comes with all the same privacy features, including the killswitch and a wide choice of encryption options. The auto-connect feature is useful for people who want the VPN to connect every time they use the internet (great for people who move around and use public WiFi a lot, for example). 

Users can select between OpenVPN UDP and Open VPN TCP, though we would generally recommend sticking to UDP which provides faster connection speeds. We found the Android app to be stable and speeds did not differ from those experienced in the desktop versions.

We also like that this app has built in blocking that prevents connections to malicious domains used for ads, trackers, or malware. Other noteworthy features available on Android are:

iOS app

The iOS VPN app provides a choice of either L2TP/IPsec or IKEv2 encryption. Of the two, we generally recommend IKEv2. This is a secure encryption standard that should provide more than adequate protection. For those who prefer OpenVPN, it will be necessary to set up the VPN manually using the third party OpenVPN connect app for iOS.

PIA for iOS is generally an excellent app that comes with a kill switch to ensure you don't leak unencrypted data to your ISP. It works by blocking any traffic from leaving the iPhone/iPad if the VPN disconnects. Port forwarding is also now available on this platform, which is great.

Overall, we found this to be an excellent VPN client that is easy to use and is good for gaining digital privacy both at home and on public WiFi. 

Final thoughts

PIA is a popular VPN service that is often praised by privacy-conscious individuals on Reddit. What's more, it's a quality provider with super clients that can offer robust levels of security.

Unfortunately, being based in the US is not ideal for a privacy service – and PIA's owner, Kape Technologies, has no immediate plans to alter its base. A zero-logs policy, however, should provide enough privacy for 99% of users.

The VPN software is easy to use on all platforms, and has the necessary features to protect customer data privacy. Previously, PIA's customer care was criticized quite harshly. Things are much better now that it has introduced a live chat – at least for US residents and anyone awake during US business hours.

PIA users can expect relatively standard speeds that are ideal for streaming in HD, or other data-intensive tasks. Kape has rolled out a number of improvements since taking over – an impressive feat, seeing a PIA was already a cheap VPN that came highly recommended.

Now, PIA can unblock Netflix US, BBC iPlayer, hulu and a long list of other streaming services. This makes the VPN a great pick for privacy and side-stepping geo-restrictions. Also, if you'd like to watch free content with peace of mind on sites like Putlocker – or by downloading torrents from the Pirate Bay – PIA has you covered.

In conclusion, PIA is an excellent VPN – and a real bargain considering the quality and quantity of features included in a subscription. We'd certainly recommend taking PIA for a test run by using its 30-day money-back guarantee.

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Written by: Ray Walsh

Digital privacy expert with 5 years experience testing and reviewing VPNs. He's been quoted in The Express, The Times, The Washington Post, The Register, CNET & many more. 

105 Comments

Tim W
on April 21, 2020
Reply
Just a note... I have yet to get iPlayer or NetFlix working on PIA.
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/proprivacy/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-small.png
Douglas Crawford replied to Tim W
on April 22, 2020
Reply
Hi Tim. So... I just now quickly installed the Windows PIA app and using the first server I tried (US Houston) was able to access the US Netflix catalog. None of the UK servers blocked iPlayer, though, so we'll look into this.
James H
on April 8, 2020
Reply
PIA is a decent VPN. I've used them in the past for many years. However, I have found most of their servers to be blacklisted. Meaning, you can't do online banking, you can't log in to PayPal, and you can't use any online streaming services, etc. PIA needs to do a little more to keep their servers off of blacklists. The only other problem I've had is the iOS app. It will absolutely NOT connect to the VPN server while on Wifi. It must be something with the port they use, but I can have my iPhone right next to my mac on the SAME Wifi. The Mac connects fine, the iPhone says "internet unreachable." They claim it's the ISP blocking them. If that's the case, then why does it only happen on the iPhone? Also I get the same result in SEVEN different countries I have visited? No... its a problem with the app.
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/proprivacy/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-small.png
Douglas Crawford replied to James H
on April 8, 2020
Reply
Hi James. Thanks for the feedback. FWIW, after reading your comment I instaled the PIA app on my WiFi-only iPad (we have test accounts for most VPN services) and connected to a VPN just fine.... Maybe you should contact PIA's support about the issue?
James replied to Douglas Crawford
on April 8, 2020
Reply
Google the PIA problem with iOS. It's been going on since 2017 and hasn't been resolved. it doesn't happen on all devices but is more prominent on the iPhone 7 and later. I have had several iPhones since the 7 and none of them have been able to connect to the VPN over Wifi. Yes, I've been through the support team, sending logs etc. Still the same problem to this day. I recently tried another VPN and the iPhone problem was gone. It connected reliably every time. I'm not bashing PIA at all. The service has been satisfactory since 2017 when I joined. Just that annoying iPhone issue. Also I've noticed more sites blacklisting PIA for whatever reason. Error 1006 access denied. The IP is being blocked.
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/proprivacy/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-small.png
Douglas Crawford replied to James
on April 9, 2020
Reply
Hi James. Hmm. Interesting. All I can say is that I can connect to VPN servers belonging to PIA and any number of other VPN services (it's my job) quite happily on my WiFi-only 2018 iPad 6...
basso
on August 17, 2019
Reply
hi does pia safe for internet activities?
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/proprivacy/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-small.png
Douglas Crawford replied to basso
on August 20, 2019
Reply
Hi basso. Yes. Despite being based in the USA, PIA is a no logs VPN service widely respected for keeping its customers "safe" on the internet.
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
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/proprivacy/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-small.png
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.
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
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/proprivacy/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-small.png
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?
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
https://cdn.proprivacy.com/storage/images/proprivacy/02/member-dougjpg-avatar-image-default-1png-avatar-image-default-minpng-avatar_image-small.png
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.
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.
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