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Thanks to the internet, more and more people around the world are connecting to one another via social media, multi-player gaming, photograph and video sharing sites, and more. It is certainly amazing, but only if your personal information and journey through the web does not fall into the wrong hands.
One way to stay safe and secure online is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). The number of VPNs available is growing, but not all of them offer the same features. If you are new to the world of VPNs, how do you choose which one is right for you?
Well, in this review we will take a closer look at one that is very easy for the beginner, Avast SecureLine VPN (Avast VPN), and one that might suit those on a budget, Private Internet Access (PIA). Our head-to-head Avast VPN vs PIA comparison will cover a number of key features to help you decide if either would be right for you.
The Avast brand name has been well-known and respected for many years as a provider of antivirus and malware protection software, giving it a slight edge over PIA in terms of reputation.
More recently, this Czech-based company added to its cybersecurity product line with the launch of its Avast SecureLine VPN. However, alarm bells are already ringing, since being based in Europe means that Avast VPN is subject to the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) policy which has established tight data retention regulations.
Nevertheless, being part of such a prestigious brand, we would expect great things from Avast VPN, especially in terms of online security.
PIA, by contrast, is run from the United States, one of the founders of the 5 Eyes surveillance alliance, and notoriously one of the worst countries for online privacy protection. PIA promises customers zero logging and no leaks which automatically puts it ahead in this race.
While privacy and security are paramount, there are many other features to consider when choosing a VPN. Read on to find out more, in this Avast Secureline VPN vs Private Internet Access comparison.
Security and privacy
Avast VPN offers military-grade encryption of 256 bits, as well as Open VPN and IPSec protocols. Surprisingly, it doesn’t offer customers greater choice, but these two protocols are the best for both speed and security.
PIA, however, offers 128-bit encryption as the default but allows users to personalize their settings by raising it to 256 bits if needed. Protocols available are Open VPN, IPSec/L2TP, PPTP, and a Socks5 proxy.
Only PIA has a kill switch – a major downside for Avast.
Speed and performance
PIA boasts around 36700 servers, however, they are only found in 77 countries, mostly in Europe and North America. Since connection speed depends on the distance to the server, users in Europe and the US will get the best service. Furthermore, PIA is one of the most popular VPN services, so overcrowding the servers is common – again, leading to slower speeds.
In contrast, Avast SecureLine VPN currently has a mere 54 servers, although these are impressively spread out through 34 countries, including China, South Korea, and Russia. The company is working hard to expand its server network.
User reviews have generally been happy with the speeds available, but there have been reports that some servers were almost impossible to connect to. Overall, PIA wins out over Avast for both speed and performance.
Ease of use and support
Both Avast and PIA have FAQs on their websites, but neither offers live chat or email contact. However, Avast does offer a 24/7 telephone helpline and support ticket system, while PIA only offers a support ticket if you have a problem that can’t be solved from the self-help information.
In terms of ease of use, Avast is probably the easiest VPN for a complete novice to use, offering a straightforward setup, in contrast to PIA. Finally a win for Avast!
Torrenting and P2P
PIA is the clear winner here.
Speeds with either VPN provider are acceptable, but PIA has much better security features and, since torrenting is done at your own risk, these extra features are no bad thing.
Avast SecureLine VPN allows for torrenting to occur but only on a limited number of servers. As for PIA, while there are a number of security features, you’ll have to contend with blocked IP addresses, as well.
Unblocking Netflix and other entertainment platforms
PIA works well to unblock Netflix, provided you’re in the right part of the world. In this instance it’s best in the European and North American regions, although some connections are still a little slow – Canada was a particular disappointment.
If you’re elsewhere, forget about accessing Netflix.
Avast, on the other hand, seems to deal well with Netflix, affording users good accessibility having overcome previous issues in this area.
When it comes to accessing other geo-restricted sites, Avast works well. There is access to the likes of Kodi and Hulu, all with good speeds. However, as connections such as this are considered illegal, it is well worth reminding you of Avast’s logging policy before you get too stuck in.
PIA is not great for accessing geo-blocked sites, although it will access Kodi and other entertainment platforms. It also has good security features if you decide to try them out.
China and other restricted countries
Avast is a simple VPN service with no advanced features for bypassing the strong firewalls in countries like China. Avast does provide dedicated ad blocks and IP addresses to their clients, though.
Unlike Avast VPN, PIA VPN works in China but with several constraints. The VPN connects in some parts of China; however, it is becoming increasingly difficult and users are recommended to try with an L2TP connection for best results.
Compatibility and pricing
Both VPNs are compatible with a range of devices, including Android, iOS, Mac, Linux, and Windows.
There is a high demand for content streaming from clients, so PIA VPN provides its users router support such as DD-WRT, Merlin, Tomato, ASUSWRT, and Lede. Avast VPN, on the other hand, does not provide any support for routers to its clients. Its services, therefore, seem to be only for mobile and PC users.
PIA has a three-tier payment plan for its users. This includes a monthly subscription of $9.95, yearly at $3.33/month ($39.95 per year) and a three-year subscription for $2.69/month.
Avast’s pricing policy depends on which device clients want to use, with similar packages being offered for each. Access to 5 devices for 1 month is $8.99 and a bargain $3.99 for 1 year’s service.
Avast Secureline VPN vs Private Internet Access: Which is better?
Though both VPNs have a lot going for them, it’s PIA that wins this battle.
PIA stands out as being cheaper and an all-round better deal. They are notable for offering reliable and stable services, providing an easy-to-use service which is something that Avast cannot quite compete with.
The real test of a VPN comes down to how anonymous it makes you and the fact that Avast keeps logs is an instant no-no. PIA, on the other hand, doesn’t keep logs and provides a number of security features for use while torrenting and streaming.
Avast, with its WebRTC leaks, lack of a kill switch and expensive price tag simply pales in comparison.
Our money, and yours, should be on PIA.
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Julie is a firm believer in equal rights for everyone. She is a traveler and blogger, focusing her efforts on exposing censorship and discrimination around the world. She wants to hold corrupt governments and shady companies accountable by writing investigative articles and helpful guides.