AirVPN and Private Internet Access (PIA) are two of the top VPN service providers on the market today. What do these two VPN solutions have in common and where do they differ? More importantly, which is the better one?
The most obvious difference between these providers is their country of origin. AirVPN is located in Italy, while PIA is based in the USA. Both countries are not great for VPNs as they fall under the Fourteen Eyes jurisdiction, yet PIA has proven their no-logs claim in a court case.
Private Internet Access is also ahead of AirVPN in terms of server amount and coverage. Of course, this could be attributed to the fact that PIA is owned by Kape Technologies and has a greater budget. While AirVPN is run by a small team of privacy advocates and hacktivists.
Join me in further examining who is the winner in this AirVPN vs Private Internet Access comparison. I’ll be looking at how well these products perform across different areas including security, performance, ease of use, and pricing. At the end of this comparison, I’ll tell you which one is the better choice depending on your needs.
|“Best for” nominee||N/A||Best overall, Best for USA, Best for Netflix|
|Price starts from||$2.40||$2.03|
|Review||AirVPN review||PIA review|
Speed and performance
Let’s start off by having a look at the most objectively measurable metric of two different VPNs – speed and performance.
At a glance, AirVPN vs PIA certainly falls short in the area of server and country coverage. It operates a relatively small fleet of 240+ servers in 20+ compared to the over 29300 servers run by PIA in 84 countries. Thus, PIA wins by having a larger infrastructure and offering more to its users.
|Physical servers||All||Not all|
|Owns all servers||No||No|
However, PIA’s many servers are concentrated in Europe and North America with very few located in Asia, Africa, and South America. So if you live in those regions, you may have to grapple with worse speeds and mediocre performance.
In addition, PIA has incorporated the new WireGuard tunneling protocol into their software, while AirVPN has failed to do so. This can result in significant speed boosts while using the slimmer protocol. This in conjunction with their greater amount of servers means that you’re more likely to find a good server near your location, which will result in greater connection speeds.
Ease of use and compatibility
|Major dedicated apps||Except iOS||All|
|Other dedicated apps||No||No|
|Browser extensions||No||Chrome, Firefox, Opera|
Another area where AirVPN falls short is the ease of use. It isn’t the most difficult thing to set up and use but it may be difficult for novices to get it running on their devices. However, this makes AirVPN more suitable for tinkering as the client is more customizable and they even have an API (application programming interface) for advanced users.
The AirVPN client is available for Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, and even Chrome OS. However, there is no standalone app for iOS meaning smartphone users have to manually set up OpenVPN on their devices before accessing AirVPN. There are also no browser extensions for any of the major browsers. On the plus side, there are AirVPN clients for AsusWRT, Tomato, and DD-WRT routers.
PIA, on the other hand, has simple, elegant apps that are very easy to set up and use. There are custom apps for all the major desktop and mobile platforms. You can also download extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. While there’s no router app, you can run PIA on routers by following the instructions on their website.
Torrenting and P2P
|Allowed on||All servers||All servers|
|Free SOCKS5 proxy||No||Yes|
If you’re looking for a VPN service that’s great for torrenting, both solutions will serve you just fine. AirVPN supports P2P file transfers and offers unlimited downloads on their servers. Speeds are great and everything runs seamlessly.
Both services support port-forwarding, which makes them great options for torrenting.
PIA also offers decent speeds and doesn’t limit P2P traffic on its network. It also provides a free SOCKS5 proxy which can help users potentially save some bandwidth.
Security and privacy
|Protocols||OpenVPN||OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard|
|Kill switch||Network Lock||Internet and app level kill switch|
|DNS and IP leaks||No leaks||No leaks|
|Security features||Split tunneling, Dynamic DNS||Split tunneling, PIA MACE, Shadowsocks, SOCKS5|
If you’re looking for a good VPN service, it’s likely because you want to protect your online privacy and stay safe on the internet. So which of these two solutions is better in this regard? Well, both actually offer decent security features. Encryption-wise, AirVPN and PIA offer military-grade AES-256 encryption.
When it comes to tunneling protocols, both employ OpenVPN. However, PIA also supports IKEv2, L2TP, and WireGuard. Both services feature a network kill switch and DNS leak protection. In addition, AirVPN offers a Tor-based service for those who want the added security on the Tor network.
|Logging||No-logs policy||Court-proven no-logs policy|
|Anonymous payment||Cryptocurrencies||Bitcoin, gift cards|
In the area of privacy, PIA does give some cause for concern as it’s run by London Trust Media, a US-based company. It was later acquired by Kape Technologies in 2019. The US is a member of the Five Eyes Alliance and companies in the US could be subject to government surveillance. On the plus side, PIA does have a strict no-logging policy, which is backed up by their inability to provide logs during court.
AirVPN, on the other hand, is located in Italy. Italy is part of the Fourteen Eyes Alliance which may also give some privacy-conscious users pause. It also has a strict no-logging policy.
Private Internet Access also isn’t a great choice for users based in China. It has very few servers in the Far East, and it lacks a stealth protocol for bypassing China’s Deep Packet Inspection (DPI).
AirVPN, on the other hand, is good enough for use in China, as it can route web traffic via TCP port 443 and it employs SSL tunneling and encryption to evade government censorship. Although it also lacks a stealth protocol, it’s a better option for use at least in China.
Both solutions seem quite evenly matched when it comes to security and privacy. However, AirVPN is a slightly better option as it offers better all-around security and is based in a less worrying location.
Netflix and other streaming platforms
|Other Netflix libraries||No||No|
When it comes to accessing Netflix, AirVPN does not fare as well as it used to. A double-hop DNS would usually do the trick, but it appears that AirVPN is no longer capable of circumventing Netflix or other streaming services.
Contrarily, PIA is doing quite well against Netflix, at least at unblocking the US library. However, it does struggle with unblocking Netflix in other regions including Canada, Germany, the UK, and Japan.
Since AirVPN isn’t exactly a champion when it comes to ease of use, it ought to have solid support options. While the forums on the site are excellent, containing lots of useful information novices might need, AirVPN customer support representatives do take some time to respond to queries sent through their contact form and their responses could be warmer.
PIA is once again ahead in this regard. They have the same options as AirVPN, such as a ticketing system and a forum. But most importantly – they have live chat, which is especially important when you need quick assistance in unblocking something time-sensitive, like a live stream of an event.
PIA offers a few pricing plans for their service, which lets you connect up to 10 devices. AirVPN is a bit more expensive if you buy a longer subscription, but you have options to try out the service for a shorter amount of time. All plans allow you to connect up to 5 devices.
|Free trial||3 days||No|
|Money-back guarantee||30 days||30 days|
Both services give you a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can also contact the support of AirVPN to get a short free trial, while PIA does not have a free trial. Both services are very reasonably priced, but PIA offers a better deal if opt for a PIA coupon code.
AirVPN vs Private Internet Access: Best VPN by category
|Speed and servers||Loses❌||Wins✔️|
|Total wins||4 out of 9||5 out of 9|
AirVPN vs Private Internet Access – which is better?
Having compared these two VPN solutions in a number of areas, it’s evident that PIA is well suited for the casual user, while AirVPN is aimed more at enthusiasts who like getting into the nitty gritty. But which one is better? Well, AirVPN does provide solid security, torrenting and P2P support, and can be used in China. However, it loses points in the areas of ease of use, compatibility, speed, performance and streaming.
PIA, on the other hand, isn’t the best option for privacy or China. But it does offer decent security credentials, more servers, better speeds, support for streaming and slightly cheaper plans. Overall, PIA has invested more into improving its service and comes out ahead of AirVPN and will be the better choice for most people.
Do you agree or disagree with such an assessment? I would love to know you think, simply leave a comment below.
Ethan is a security researcher and digital privacy advocate. He spends his time unraveling various anonymity and security tools, plus contributing to open-source projects. Otherwise, he keeps a low profile by hiking or cycling around the countryside.