Private Internet Access Review

8.9/10
Secure and fast no-log VPN

Private Internet Access Review

8.9/10 Good
Secure and fast no-log VPN

One of the top VPNs in the industry, Private Internet Access is dependable in its security and entertainment abilities. If you’re looking for torrenting, unblocking Netflix and average protection, it’s for you. But its limited support keeps it from the very top.

Last updated: July 8, 2020

One of the top VPNs in the industry, Private Internet Access is dependable in its security and entertainment abilities. If you’re looking for torrenting, unblocking Netflix and average protection, it’s for you. But its limited support keeps it from the very top.

5
Out of 215
VPN providers
Things we like:
  • Good security credentials
  • Good coverage in the West
  • Not bad for torrents
  • Very cheap
  • Unblocks Netflix US
Things we don't like:
  • Based in the US
  • Not good in China
Minimum Price:
$2.69 / month
Apps available:
windows macos ios android linux chrome firefox opera
Works with:
router
Private Internet Access Review:
5
Out of 215
VPN providers
Things we like:
  • Good security credentials
  • Good coverage in the West
  • Not bad for torrents
  • Very cheap
  • Unblocks Netflix US
Things we don't like:
  • Based in the US
  • Not good in China

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

Private Internet Access (PIA) is one of the most affordable and well-known VPNs out there. The consistent quality of this service has kept it popular for ages now. But just how good is it?

In this Private Internet Access review, I’ll go through security features, speed, apps, pricing, and support. What is more, I’ll answer the question nagging many around the world: does PIA unblock Netflix US?

Keep reading to see whether to invest in the product or look further.

Security and privacy features

PIA has reliable security features. They may not be super-advanced or numerous, but they’re all most users will ever need. 

Encryption and tunneling protocols

PIA uses strong encryption – namely, AES-128 and AES-256. The app offers more cryptographic choices than are commonly available: you can pick your level of data encryption, the handshake, and the authentication standard.

The primary tunneling protocol used by PIA is OpenVPN, but the iOS app also has mobile-friendly IKEv2. It’s also nice to see that the company is futureproofing its security measures and has now added a preview of WireGuard® tunneling protocol on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. This places the service high up on our list – not many providers have mastered the new technology to include it in their apps.

Kill switch

Private Internet Access has a great kill switch – an important feature to protect from any unexpected connection disruptions. This is bolstered through the use of their private DNS to avoid leaking.

In addition to the VPN, there are also PIA proxy services in the form of the Chrome/Firefox extensions, as well as SOCKS5 and Shadowsocks proxies. The latter is awesome in heavy censorship countries, like China.

You can find them in the Settings:

screenshot of Private Internet Access proxy preferences

IP and DNS leaks

To see if there are any IP or DNS leaks, it’s best to run a test online.

First of all, I connected to Mexico and was assigned the IP address 196.52.10.18.

After that I checked if my IP address or DNS queries were leaking:

screensot of dns address using server in Mexico

As you can see, the IP addresses match, which means there is no IP leak.

Business location

PIA is based in the US and owned by Kape Technologies, which bought Private Internet Access in 2019. This country is one of the most problematic places to register a VPN company.

There are many reasons for this – the legal climate with legislation such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), government surveillance, including by the NSA, corporate surveillance by tech and telecommunications companies, and so on.

If that’s not enough, the US is part of the Five Eyes country group – a robust intelligence-sharing framework.

With that said, all of these privacy risks are greatly mitigated by PIA’s strong no-logs policy.

Logging policy

Private Internet Access has a clear no-logging policy. This was proven in a US court case in 2015 and several more recent cases where PIA personnel was called to testify and couldn’t produce anything useful to the prosecution.

This should be reassuring to anyone seeking online privacy – you can be certain that not even PIA knows what you’re doing online.

Anonymous purchase

What I like about PIA are its vast options for anonymous purchase.

You can pay anonymously with many major brand gift cards: including, Fully Anonymous, Instant Access, 100% Secure Starbucks, Walmart, Best Buy, and many more.

PIA payment options

Additionally, there are plenty of cryptocurrency options as well. These include Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, and Zcash. That’s more than enough opportunity to keep Private Internet Access off your balance sheet.

Other technical features

In August of 2019, Private Internet Access announced a new feature – the Handshake Naming System (HNS). To put it in simple terms, the HNS is a blockchain alternative for the Domain Name System (DNS).

HNS completely decentralizes the domain name system and creates an additional layer of privacy for users. According to PIA, it also works as a tool against DNS-level blocking (something governments use to ban websites and online services).

The HNS is definitely good and will be appreciated by power users. However, its usefulness for common folk is exaggerated. It is no more effective for bypassing DNS blocking than regular PIA DNS servers.

The only exceptions to this rule are marginal cases, and certainly not the blocking of websites like Facebook.

Speed

Connection speeds depend on location. Due to this, no average speed test in the world can give you a good answer to the question, “how fast is this VPN for me?”

In this particular case, you’re most likely to feel the negative effects of PIA server distribution if you’re based in Asia (including the Middle East), Africa, or even South America – most servers are not based in these locations.

map showing PIA servers around the world

If you are in Europe or North America – you’re in luck. A large chunk of PIA’s 3300+ server list is located in these regions.

To see how fast PIA is, I ran speed tests using the WireGuard tunneling protocol.

I started the test with no VPN on:

Private Internet Access speed test without VPN

  • Download: 302 Mbps
  • Upload: 307 Mbps
  • Ping: 3 ms

Then I compared the speed with the speeds across the globe:

Germany

Private Internet Access speed test in Germany

  • Download: 140 Mbps (54% drop-off)
  • Upload: 85 Mbps (73% drop-off)
  • Ping: 47 ms

US, New York

Private Internet Access speed in the US

  • Download: 125 Mbps (59% drop-off)
  • Upload: 84 Mbps (73% drop-off)
  • Ping: 108 ms

Australia

Private Internet Access speed test in Australia

  • Download: 19 Mbps (94% drop-off)
  • Upload: 79 Mbps (74% drop-off)
  • Ping: 237 ms

As you can tell, PIA provides some of the best speeds. Of course, there are a few VPNs on the market that are faster, but Private Internet Access is cheaper.

Does Private Internet Access support my device?

There are custom apps for all main platforms: Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android. There’s no Private Internet Access router app at the moment, but you can still run PIA VPN on most router devices if you follow the instructions on their site. There are also guidelines for manual Amazon Fire Stick setup, although it’s not officially supported.

pia app downloads list

Private Internet Access desktop apps

To get your Private Internet Access account, go to the PIA website and click the carrot-colored GET STARTED NOW button.

You’ll be asked to choose one of three pricing plans, select a payment method, and make the payment. Then you’ll create an account and receive an email with your username and password. Enter these into the Private Internet Access login screen when the app starts.

Installing PIA is a no-brainer. You’ll have to:

  1.       Run the installer from your browser or your Downloads directory.
  2.       Choose a language for the installation.
  3.       Allow the installer to make changes to your device (click Yes when prompted).
  4.       Follow the installation wizard – it will install the client and the TAP driver.
  5.       Click “Finish.”

The Private Internet Access Windows 10 version is the one I’ll look at. PIA has recently launched a new app – it’s elegant, simplistic, and has some security benefits over the old one.

When you run the app, it will greet you with a screen offering to Log In or take a Quick Tour. private internet access start screen

Enter your credentials into the login screen. Once you have, you’ll see a simple home screen where you can click the large Connect button, choose the server, or enter the Settings screen (button in the top right).

Screenshot showing successfull connection to PIA server in Denmark

The server choice screen lets you choose by name of latency (ping). You can expand or minimize the location lists in various countries. There are no fireworks, but the menu is easy to use and self-explanatory.

pia server selection menu

The PIA Settings screen is a change from the old version, where everything was crammed into one long list of settings. Here you will see choices divided by function:

  • Privacy Preferences lets you customize the kill switch and toggle PIA MACE, which is an excellent security feature combining an ad blocker, tracker blocker, and malware shield.

PIA privacy preferences menu

  • Network Preferences lets you choose DNS servers, Request Port Forwarding (useful for seeding torrents or remote desktop connections), and toggle whether to allow LAN Traffic.

PIA network preferences menu

  • Connection Preferences offers to choose the tunneling protocol (Connection Type), Remote/Local Port, as well as cipher settings. A feature that is almost unique to PIA is the option to use Small Packets, which should improve the experience for users who has connection stability issues.

PIA connection preferences

Ultimately, this constitutes a good set of features, although power users may miss server information or stealth features for use in censorship-heavy countries.

Private Internet Access mobile apps

The Android version of PIA has most of the desktop features. You can request port forwarding, switch DNS, connect via proxy, force IPv6 blocking, and so on.

PIA Android app Settings

Unfortunately, the iOS app provides only the basics, such as choosing the protocol and encryption or turning on the malware blocker. Luckily, you can use WireGuard to achieve much higher speeds.

PIA iOS settings

In the end, both mobile apps are user friendly and easy to use.

Private Internet Access for web browsers

You can download Chrome, Firefox, and Opera extensions.

PIA’s Chrome and Firefox extensions are HTTPS proxy addons. This is good, but keep in mind that only your web traffic will be affected.

Chrome and Firefox extensions aren’t the only way to use a Private Internet Access proxy – each subscription includes a SOCKS5 proxy. You’ll need a separate password to use it, which you can generate on the Client Control Panel.

Netflix and other streaming services

PIA works great for unblocking Netflix US.

I’ve tested Netflix from Europe using fast.com to determine the nominal speed and check the loading times (if the content was successfully unblocked). The original speed without a VPN was 230 Mbps, as per the fast.com test.

US, New York

Private Internet Access Netflix speed test results in the US, New York

64 Mbps, more than enough for UHD (4K). Loading times didn’t exceed a few seconds. Here’s the result:

pia netflix punisher

US, Los Angeles
74 Mbps. More than once, I’m getting better Netflix results on the West Coast despite New York being closer.

Netherlands, Utrecht
92 Mbps and Netflix unblocked! Loading times were a couple of seconds at most, while streaming was as smooth as marble.

I tried a bunch of other locations as well – the UK, Canada, Germany, Japan – but none were able to unblock Netflix. Therefore, if you want to access some of the other Netflix libraries, look for another VPN service.

Private Internet Access for Kodi

In terms of security, Private Internet Access is a great choice for Kodi. While it has no Android TV or Amazon Fire TV (Firestick) apps, you can still set the VPN up on those devices by following the instructions on the support page. You can also run Kodi through PIA via your Windows, Mac, Android, or iOS device.

PIA also offers a free SOCKS5 proxy, which you can set up directly on your Kodi app. Therefore, all in all, I can recommend PIA VPN for Kodi.

Does Private Internet Access support torrenting?

Private Internet Access is definitely not the worst choice for torrenting. European and North American users will find the speeds decent, and the security features are sufficient.

There’s also the Port Forwarding feature, which is great if your torrent tracker demands that you seed. Use this at your own risk, as it increases the chances of being found out.

Unlike some other VPN services, PIA doesn’t limit P2P traffic on the network – you can torrent on any server. Additionally, users can take advantage of the free SOCKS5 proxy.

This allows you to secure traffic at the VPN app level, thus potentially saving some valuable bandwidth.

Support

PIA support section

Private Internet Access has many customer support options. They are:

  • Self-help resources – the Knowledgebase, Guides, News, a forum (Feedback)
  • Support tickets
  • Live chat

We welcome the most recent addition, the live chat option as it truly makes for a much more streamlined experience.

Pricing

Private Internet Access pricing plans

There are three different Private Internet Access pricing plans. You can get it for:

  • 1-month plan: $9.95
  • 6-month plan: $35.95 ($5.99/month)
  • 1-year plan + 2 months free: $39.95 ($3.33/month)

I might bash Private Internet Access for not offering a free trial, but with prices so low I don’t blame them for skipping it. Instead, you get a 30-day money-back guarantee – fair enough, PIA.

Also, a generous ten simultaneous connections limit will allow you to share the account with family and friends.

Should you get Private Internet Access VPN?

PIA is a trustworthy tool both in terms of security and entertainment.

If you’re European or North American and your goals are to 1) torrent; 2) stream Netflix US; 3) protect yourself from cybercriminals whilst sipping a Starbucks latte – PIA is for you.

Good

  • Good security credentials
  • Good coverage in the West
  • Not bad for torrents
  • Very cheap
  • Unblocks Netflix US
  • Privacy-friendly service
  • Fast speeds
  • 10 simultaneous connections

Bad

  • Based in the US
  • Not good in China
 8.9 / 10
Total score
$2.69 / month
Minimum Price
Top VPN options:
1. NordVPN
9.6 / 10
Excellent security
Very fast speeds
2. Surfshark VPN
9.4 / 10
Strong encryption
Great performance
Unlimited simultaneous connections

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

Top VPN options:
1. NordVPN
9.6 / 10
Excellent security
Very fast speeds
2. Surfshark VPN
9.4 / 10
Strong encryption
Great performance
Unlimited simultaneous connections

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


14 comments
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  1. Anthony

    where i live, PIA is the ONLY app which works. after introducing the WireGuard feature, speed got better and works like a charm. definitely recommend it.


  2. AlArabi

    It seems that it offers a good value and decent performance but I heard that there is no free trial for it, is it true? If yes then it’s a no-no for me.


    1. Kevin Marlowe

      Hi AlArabi,

      Yes, that’s correct, although you can pay and get a refund within 7 days (they have a 7-day money-back guarantee).


  3. Kevin D

    My device is LENOVO YOGA 730-151 KB. OS is Win 10 Home. I’ve used others and find this to be the best, fastest, and most efficient for the money. Great application. A quick and easy solution to surf the web anonymously and it works across multiple platforms. Recommended highly


  4. Lorna

    PIA is a decent option for browsing but what do you do when you have problems and their support doesn’t answer or takes a few days to do that? Happened to me and I cancelled my account with them. I was expecting a far better service from such a known company. ExpressVPN is much better.


  5. B. Chmielewska

    I tried using PIA and was very disappointed with them. I experienced disconnects regularly and struggled getting any help from their support system. I wouldn’t recommend using Private Internet Access and hope that no one has to go through the horrible experience that I did. Their price may be enticing, but don’t waste your money.


  6. Daniel G

    Best VPN on the market!

    Not only it is cheaper(in price), but it has the best features! Including their own security feature, MACE.
    Both Windows Software and Chrome Extension are amazing! And easy to use.


  7. Wilhelm J.

    Do you know of other VPN with a Kill Switch feature? I’m from Germany and copyright laws are very strict here. I liked PIA, but I’m looking for something to watch Netflix on.


    1. Kevin Marlowe

      Hi Wilhelm,

      There are plenty of VPN services with a kill switch. Basically any of the top ones will fit your needs: NordVPN, ExpressVPN, PrivateVPN – all are great for Netflix and have a kill switch.


  8. Benton1234

    As long as it uses OpenVPN, I’m satisfied with it.
    Thanks for the info.


    1. Kevin Marlowe

      Yes, it’s a very decent choice, especially if you’re based in the States!


  9. Elvira Albert

    I have used PIA for 2 months only but I can definitely its good for torrents and streaming but not for its speed. Currently using Ivacy VPN now and found it the best option in terms of cost as well.


  10. digvane

    cant seem to get pia to work on roku
    dont know if doing something wrong or just not compatible


    1. Kevin Marlowe

      Hey digvane,

      While PIA doesn’t support Roku directly, you could still get it to work in a roundabout way by setting PIA up on your router (assuming you have the right kind of router). Check the helpdesk page on PIA’s website for info on how to do this.

      Best of luck!

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5
Out of 215
VPN providers
Things we like:
  • Good security credentials
  • Good coverage in the West
  • Not bad for torrents
  • Very cheap
  • Unblocks Netflix US
Things we don't like:
  • Based in the US
  • Not good in China
Pricing plans:
1 year
$3.33 / month
6 months
$5.99 / month
1 month
$9.95 / month
2 years + 2 months
$2.69 / month
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