ExpressVPN vs PIA (Private Internet Access) in 2021

Mikaela Bray
Mikaela Bray | Contributing Writer
Last updated: August 23, 2021
ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access

Disclaimer: Affiliate links help us produce good content. Learn more.

Finding the right VPN service is no small task. There are numerous providers out there that excel in different areas and offer different pricing plans. In this ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access comparison, I’ll check how these two VPN heavyweights stack up against each other in the areas of security, privacy, speed, support, and compatibility, and find out which one is better. Here’s a quick rundown.

ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access highlights

ExpressVPNPIA
Our rating8.4⭐8.3⭐
“Best for” nomineeBest overall, fastest VPNBest overall, best for USA, best for Android
Price starts from$8.32/month$2.19/month
ReviewExpressVPN reviewPrivate Internet Access review
WebsiteExpressVPNPIA

Speed

For up-to-date information on how each VPN is performing, you can check our VPN speed test tool. However, at the time of writing this review, PIA wasn’t implemented with it.

As such, we’ve conducted manual speed tests with the fastest tunneling protocols of each provider. Keep in mind that these results can vary due to a lot of factors and don’t necessarily represent the truth. Regardless, the baseline download speed is 294 Mbps, while the upload speed is 319 Mbps.

ExpressVPNPIA
USA
Download248 Mbps206 Mbps
Upload277 Mbps88 Mbps
UK
Download243 Mbps291 Mbps
Upload274 Mbps271 Mbps
Canada
Download163 Mbps229 Mbps
Upload152 Mbps87 Mbps
Germany
Download207 Mbps246 Mbps
Upload61 Mbps27 Mbps

As you can see, ExpressVPN outperformed PIA in terms of upload speed, while overall download speed is in favor of Private Internet Access. 

Servers

ExpressVPNPIA
Servers3000+29300+
Countries94+78+
All physical serversNoNo
Owns all serversNoNo
RAM-only serversYesNo
P2P serversYesYes

With 3000+ servers in 94+ countries, ExpressVPN has a great server list.  But so does PIA – a record-beating 29300+ servers in 78+ countries is nothing to scoff at.

However, ExpressVPN has one ace up its sleeve that PIA is no match against – RAM-only server technology. It ensures that no data is stored on hard drives, and when the servers are rebooted any information within is wiped clean.

To summarize, the connection speeds of these two VPN providers are on equal terms, but ExpressVPN is leagues ahead because of RAM-only servers, which offer excellent security and privacy.

ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN
VPNpro rating: 8.4 / 10

ExpressVPN vs PIA pricing comparison

ExpressVPNPIA
One month
$12.95/month$9.95/month
Six months
$9.99/monthN/A
One year
$8.32/month$3.33/month
Three YearsN/A$2.19/month
Money-back guarantee
30 days30 days
Payment optionsCredit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, Paymentwall (AliPay, UnionPay, and more)Credit card, PayPal, Amazon Pay, cryptocurrencies, Beam, Mint, gift cards

Price is the ultimate shortcoming of ExpressVPN. You’ll be surprised to find out that their cheapest plan still costs almost three times more than the cheapest PIA plan. It’s not like ExpressVPN is head and shoulders above PIA – as you’ll see in the rest of this comparison, the VPNs are very close in terms of what they offer.

Sadly, neither service offers a free trial. However, both have a 30-day money-back guarantee. Although it’s not the intended use, you can subscribe for a month, test it and ask for a refund on the 29th day. That way you’ll get a good idea of their service level, speeds, and even customer support.

ExpressVPN pricing

Expressvpn pricing

With ExpressVPN, you have the choice between three subscription plans:

By grabbing the lengthiest plan, you’ll have a 49% discount bestowed upon you. Alternatively, you can utilize an ExpressVPN coupon code for an even greater bargain.

Additionally, ExpressVPN has a decent number of payment options, such as credit cards, PayPal, and Paymentwall, plus anonymous payment in the form of Bitcoin.

PIA pricing

PIA 2020 Olympics pricing

Private Internet Access offers three different subscription plans:

The three year plan grants you a substantial 78% discount. On the other hand, you can also try your luck by using a Private Internet Access discount code to get a different deal.

With PIA, payment options are plentiful and include credits cards, PayPal, Amazon Pay, cryptocurrencies, and even gift cards.

Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access
VPNpro rating: 8.3 / 10

Security of ExpressVPN and PIA

ExpressVPNPIA
EncryptionMilitary-gradeMilitary-grade
ProtocolsLightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2
Security featuresTrustedServer, Stealth servers, split tunneling (except iOS), port forwarding, MediaStreamer (Smart DNS)Split tunneling, PIA MACE, Shadowsocks, SOCKS5, dedicated IP, port forwarding

In terms of security, both services are especially strong and offer a wide range of essential and bonus features for a variety of use-cases. Unsurprisingly, both services have a reliable kill switch and will shut down your internet in case your VPN server disconnects. Plus, your traffic will be protected with strong AES-256 encryption to hide your online habits from any potential snoopers.

ExpressVPN security features

ExpressVPN General Settings on Windows

With its significantly higher cost, it’s a relief that at least ExpressVPN has a good number of features to compensate.

  • TrustedServer is the label that is given to ExpressVPNs RAM-only server technology. It guarantees confidentiality on a technical level by using RAM memory to store data, which gets wiped when the system is rebooted.
  • Stealth Servers are there so that you could get around DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) and other online censorship methods.
  • With ExpressVPN, split tunneling is available on Windows, Mac, and Android devices. It allows you to choose which apps should go through the VPN tunnel.
  • Port forwarding improves your download speeds when torrenting by making it easier to access your network remotely.
  • MediaStreamer is essentially Smart DNS and allows you to get around geographical restrictions on streaming devices that don’t usually support VPN software.
  • Lightway is the proprietary tunneling protocol that ExpressVPN uses. It’s based on WolfSSL and offers speeds comparable to WireGuard.

Private Internet Access security features

PIA Windows app screenshots

At an affordable price, PIA gives you access to a respectable number of versatile online security features.

  • PIAs implementation of split tunneling allows you to customize which apps should bypass the VPN tunnel and which should use it.
  • PIA MACE is a toggleable feature that blocks malicious domains used for malware, ads, and other nefarious purposes.
  • A Shadowsocks proxy can be utilized in censorship-heavy countries like China to get around VPN blocks.
  • A SOCKS5 proxy is needed to secure your torrent client
  • For an extra cost, you can add a dedicated IP option to your PIA subscription. Currently, there are five locations available (Australia, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, United States).
  • Just like its competitor, PIA offers port forwarding for improved torrenting speeds and remote network access.
  • The ultra-fast and open-source WireGuard tunneling protocol is available to ensure speed and security while using PIA on any device.

ExpressVPN vs PIA video review

Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN review 2021 | Finally, the TRUTH💥
2021-03-03
ExpressVPN review 🔥 Which VPNs can beat it in 2021??
2021-01-17

Privacy of ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access

ExpressVPNPIA
JurisdictionThe British Virgin IslandsUnited States
LoggingCourt-proven and independently-audited no-logs policyCourt-proven no-logs policy
Anonymous payment
Cryptocurrencies, gift cardsCryptocurrencies, gift cards

In terms of privacy, jurisdiction is what makes or breaks a VPN service. It’s only natural to want your VPN to be located as far away from non-privacy-friendly countries as possible. ExpressVPN has the edge there: the British Virgin Islands is a privacy-friendly location with no data retention laws. In comparison, the United States is one of the worst locations for a VPN you can find. It’s also a member of the Five Eyes alliance.

However, the no-logs policies of both providers are pretty solid. ExpressVPN had their no-logs policy tested when Turkey’s officials seized one of their servers but didn’t manage to find anything. Law enforcement agencies have been asking PIA for data for years, but always unsuccessfully. So, you shouldn’t worry too much about your data ending up in someone else’s hands.

When it comes to anonymous payment options, you can buy ExpressVPN with cryptocurrencies and gift cards. You can make sure that your name won’t be indicated on your bank account.

expressvpn payments

Private Internet Access also has multiple crypto-options and accepts gift cards.

PIA payment optionsIn short, both services are very close, but ExpressVPN wins because it’s located outside the United States – a pretty bad place for your privacy. This is especially true after the renewal of the Patriot Act. If you just don’t want your ISP, faculty, or workplace to know what you’re doing online both services are fine. If, however, you’re an undercover agent trying to overthrow the oppressive government, you should probably steer clear of PIA.

Device compatibility

ExpressVPNPIA
Major apps
Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, AndroidWindows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android
Other apps
Fire TV & Fire Stick, Android TV, Chromebook, Routers, Kindle Fire, Nook HDChromebook OS, Android TV (same Android apps)
Browser extensions
Chrome, Firefox, EdgeChrome, Firefox, Edge, Opera
Manual setup
Chromecast, Nvidia Shield, routersRouters
Simultaneous devices510

Both services support all major desktop and mobile platforms. Including macOS, Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS. ExpressVPN prides itself on having a router app. It’s one of the rarely found VPN features. Plus they strongly advertise their MediaStreamer feature – a DNS server that adjusts to the content that you want to unblock even when your device doesn’t natively support VPN apps. This means you can unblock content on your Apple TV or PlayStation.

While PIA doesn’t have a router app, you can set up your router manually with a VPN by following instructions on their site. Both providers also offer browser extensions for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox, with PIA even going one step further and offering an add-on for Opera.

If you hate having a cluttered user interface, you’ll like either VPN. Both are easy to set up and have intuitive interfaces that are both functional and friendly for beginners. PIA is more generous with options and settings. Users who like to tweak everything will surely have a better time with PIA.

Netflix and other streaming platforms

ExpressVPNPIA
Netflix US
YesYes
Other Netflix libraries
YesYes
Other platforms
YesYes
Smart DNSMediaStreamerNo

When it comes to streaming, ExpressVPN vs PIA are almost on the same page. However, the main difference is that ExpressVPN has the MediaStreamer feature, which is essential if you want to stream on other devices besides your laptop and mobile phone.

ExpressVPN unblocks Netflix

Otherwise, both services can unblock Netflix US, plus libraries from other countries as well. Naturally, other streaming services, such as Hulu, BBC iPlayer, SlingTV, can be accessed with these VPNs as well. Plus, the exceptionally fast tunneling protocols that both VPNs use are more than enough to stream in UHD and even 4K.

Kodi fans will be happy to hear that these services will pair with all major platforms. You even can install PIA’s SOCKS5 proxy directly onto the Kodi app.

pia netflix punisher

With MediaStreamer, ExpressVPN wins in this category. But for cheaper options, have a look at our list of best VPNs for streaming.

Torrenting and P2P with ExpressVPN and PIA

ExpressVPNPIA
Allowed on
All serversAll servers
Free SOCKS5 proxy
NoYes
Split tunneling
YesYes
Port forwardingYesYes

While neither service is nominated as one of the best VPNs for torrenting, ExpressVPN and PIA are excellent for P2P. The speeds matter in this section so both VPNs are great and neither service limits P2P traffic, which means you can torrent on any server.

PIA gets an extra point for having a free SOCKS5 proxy, which ExpressVPN lacks. Luckily, both services are equipped with split tunneling and port forwarding features. While the former isn’t strictly for torrenting, it’s a great option if you need a VPN just for torrenting. Meanwhile, the latter feature will definitely improve your P2P experience.

In the end, PIA scores a point by having an extra feature for torrenters in the form of a SOCKS5 proxy.

China and other restricted countries

ExpressVPNPIA
Works in China
YesDepends on region
Stealth VPN
Yes (Stealth Servers)Shadowsocks
Tor over VPN
NoNo

ExpressVPN and PIA work in China. However, according to user reports, ExpressVPN is somewhat more reliable at bypassing The Great Firewall of China. It doesn’t help that PIA has very few servers in Asia. This means that China-based users may have to deal with slower connection speeds. With that said, you may still be able to use it.

PIA redeems itself by offering Shadowsocks. This disguises VPN traffic, making it more difficult for the government to recognize and block it. A feature such as this is essential to have when accessing the internet in China.

Meanwhile, ExpressVPN has the aptly named Stealth Servers. This feature is enabled automatically whenever the VPN software detects DPI. This means you don’t have to worry about anything yourself and let the app deal with whatever obstacles the regime throws at you.

If you’re looking for the ideal service to get around Chinese censorship, have a look through our list of Best VPNs for China.

Customer support

VPN support

If good customer support is important to you, there’s plenty of good things to say about both services. ExpressVPN with troubleshooting guides and 24/7 live chat delivers about the same quality as PIA. They also have a ticket system and live chat. In short, you shouldn’t have too much trouble sorting things out if something doesn’t work.

ExpressVPN vs PIA – which is better?

ExpressVPN🥇PIA🥈
Speed and serversWins✔️Loses❌
PricingLoses❌Wins✔️
Security
Loses❌Wins✔️
Privacy
Wins✔️Loses❌
Compatibility
Wins✔️Loses❌
Streaming
Wins✔️Loses❌
Torrenting
Loses❌Wins✔️
China
Wins✔️Loses❌
Customer supportTieTie
Total wins
5 out of 93 out of 9

Having compared two of the best-known VPN providers, I conclude that ExpressVPN is the superior option. While it’s not as cheap as PIA, it’s compatible with a wide range of devices and performs better when streaming or dealing with online censorship.

On the other hand, PIA is a great choice for those who need affordable security from various online threats and when torrenting. Just keep in mind that ExpressVPN has a better track record and the technical backbone to ensure privacy.

Which VPN do you prefer? Let us know by leaving a comment!



FAQ

Is ExpressVPN better than Private Internet Access?

Yes, ExpressVPN is superior to Private Internet Access. Although it’s more expensive, it supports a wider array of devices, can unblock more streaming services and has a better privacy policy.

Is ExpressVPN safe?

Yes, ExpressVPN is exceptionally safe. The service had a server seized by authorities and no personal information could be gleaned from it. Furthermore, it’s based in a privacy-respecting jurisdiction and has been independently audited multiple times.

Does PIA work with Netflix?

Yes, Private Internet Access can unblock Netflix US and a few other libraries. Additionally, it can stream the content without any issues thanks to the WireGuard tunneling protocol.

Top VPN providers
NordVPN
9.6 / 10
30-day money-back guarantee
Military grade encryption
Friendly support
Surfshark VPN
9.4 / 10
Strong encryption
Excellent performance
Unlimited simultaneous connections

Disclaimer: Affiliate links help us produce good content. Learn more.

6 comments
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. S. Phoenix

    ExpressVPN I’m sure is a very good service, but way too expensive for many people including myself. PIA on the other hand is still highly reliable and great VPN, and is very affordable compared to ExpressVPN. I used to use CyberGhost when it used to offer free service. I thought about using Avast SecureLine VPN, but PIA still wins out in price and quality as well, so I’m choosing PIA as the best VPN for me.


  2. JT

    PIA is merged with Kape Technologies.
    I keep reading claims that Kape is known for spreading malware, but the only references to this I can find are random posts over the internet claiming… that Kape spreads malware.

    Is there an actual proof source for this? Are there any studies, reports from anti-malware companies, etc.

    Also, ExpressVPN is a high-class VPN. It’s expensive, but its speed is unbeatable, PIA VPN is slower.


  3. microtransactionminnie

    I’ve been using NordVPN, but we set up ExpressVPN for my parents. It’s worked pretty well for them – mom and dad use the internet a lot but they aren’t familiar with stuff like VPNS, haha, so my sisters and I set them up with a good one. It’s working for them so far, and we love it!


  4. theseeker

    ExpressVPN all the way! I understand it being a little expensive, but honestly PIA can’t compare to the service and coverage it provides. I can’t imagine feeling safe with a service like PIA, because ExpressVPN is so tight and secure.


  5. Mishii

    When it comes to choosing a VPN, nothing compares to Express VPN! I’ve been using it for as long as I can remember.


  6. Xioma

    I can’t afford ExpressVPN so I use PIA. Many people have their security concerns, but it works well for me. I would like them to have a live chat, but I get what I pay for.

Share
Share
Thanks for your opinion!
Your comment will be checked for spam and approved as soon as possible.