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
|Our rating||8.2 ⭐||8.1 ⭐|
|Current offer||Get ExpressVPN 35% OFF!||Get PIA 80% OFF!|
|Price starts from||$8.32/month||$2.03/month|
|Money-back guarantee||30 days||30 days|
|No-logs policy||Court-proven and independently audited||Court-proven|
|Servers||3000+ servers in 94+ countries||29300+ servers in 84+ countries|
|VPN protocols||Lightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2, L2TP, PPTP||WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2|
|Streaming||Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and more||Netflix, Hulu|
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.
|Download||248 Mbps||206 Mbps|
|Upload||277 Mbps||88 Mbps|
|Download||243 Mbps||291 Mbps|
|Upload||274 Mbps||271 Mbps|
|Download||163 Mbps||229 Mbps|
|Upload||152 Mbps||87 Mbps|
|Download||207 Mbps||246 Mbps|
|Upload||61 Mbps||27 Mbps|
As you can see, ExpressVPN outperformed PIA in terms of upload speed, while overall download speed is in favor of Private Internet Access.
|All physical servers||No||No|
|Owns all servers||No||No|
With 3000+ servers in 94+ countries, ExpressVPN has a great server list. But so does PIA – a record-beating 29300+ servers in 84+ 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 vs PIA pricing comparison
|Money-back guarantee||30 days||30 days|
|Payment options||Credit 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.
With ExpressVPN, you have the choice between three subscription plans:
By grabbing the lengthiest plan, you’ll have a 35% 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.
Private Internet Access offers three different subscription plans:
The three-year plan grants you a substantial 80% 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.
Security of ExpressVPN and PIA
|Protocols||Lightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2||WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2|
|Security features||TrustedServer, 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
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
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
Privacy of ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access
|Jurisdiction||The British Virgin Islands||United States|
|Logging||Court-proven and independently-audited no-logs policy||Court-proven no-logs policy|
|Anonymous payment||Cryptocurrencies, gift cards||Cryptocurrencies, 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.
Private Internet Access also has multiple crypto-options and accepts gift cards.
In 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.
|Major apps||Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android||Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android|
|Other apps||Fire TV & Fire Stick, Android TV, Chromebook, Routers, Kindle Fire, Nook HD||Chromebook OS, Android TV (same Android apps)|
|Browser extensions||Chrome, Firefox, Edge||Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Opera|
|Manual setup||Chromecast, Nvidia Shield, routers||Routers|
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
|Other Netflix libraries||Yes||Yes|
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.
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.
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
|Allowed on||All servers||All servers|
|Free SOCKS5 proxy||No||Yes|
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
|Works in China||Yes||Depends on region|
|Stealth VPN||Yes (Stealth Servers)||Shadowsocks|
|Tor over VPN||No||No|
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.
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?
|Speed and servers||Wins✔️||Loses❌|
|Total wins||5 out of 9||3 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!
Is ExpressVPN better than Private Internet Access?
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.