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Private Internet Access Review Private Internet Access Review

By Justin Oyaro 1 March 2022

Cybersecurity Expert

Score Breakdown:

Price from: 2.03/mo

Available on:

9.7

total score

Things To Like

  • Next-gen servers in 84 countries
  • Kill switch, split tunneling, and ad-blocking
  • Open-source VPN apps
  • Up to 10 simultaneous connections

Things Not To Like

  • Not much

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a reputable VPN service that offers excellent digital privacy.

Being in the industry for more than 10 years, PIA has garnered a base of 15 million satisfied customers. Private Internet Access is all about transparency, security, privacy, and delivering a world-class VPN service to its customers.

Quick Summary

Private Internet Access provides a privacy-centric fast VPN experience. Its vast global servers in 84 countries deliver high-speed connections with unlimited bandwidth. PIA also incorporates fast and secure VPN protocols such as WireGuard and OpenVPN.

PIA protects your online activities and connections with powerful encryptions and offers advanced privacy and security features. Although the VPN service is based in the US, it has proven its no-usage-logs policy claim in court. PIA always ensures that your privacy and security come first.

This VPN service offers user-friendly open-source VPN apps compatible with most operating systems. PIA VPN subscriptions support up to 10 simultaneous connections.

The subscriptions carry a 30-day money-back guarantee. PIA VPN also has reliable 24/7 customer service with technical support.

Continue reading to know more about Private Internet Access VPN service.

Feature Highlights

  • Next-gen servers in 84 countries
  • Based in the US
  • Dedicated IP address and Antivirus
  • WireGuard protocol
  • Advanced encryption
  • Kill switch, split tunneling, and ad-blocking
  • Multi-hop and Obfuscation
  • 100% no-usage-logs policy
  • Open-source VPN apps
  • Up to 10 simultaneous connections
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Speed

10.0

PIA VPN offers consistent blazing speeds suitable for speed-intensive tasks such as streaming, gaming, file sharing, and video conferencing.

The fast connection speeds are due to the upgraded infrastructure and the 10Gbps capacity of the Next Gen servers. Additionally, PIA offers the WireGuard protocol, which offers optimal speed performance.

If you notice slow speeds or latency issues, you can connect to different or nearest servers.

If you are a fan of the OpenVPN protocol, try using these ports 53, 123, 853, 8080 for UDP or these ports 80, 443, 853, 8443 for TCP. Additionally, you can customize your encryption settings for optimal speeds and security.

Moreover, you can change the MTU setting in the PIA VPN apps.

MTU determines the packet size allowed through your connection. Usually, this setting is automatically determined by your connection. However, you can use the large or small setting.

Large is efficient if your connection is reliable, and small is for unreliable connections.

Locations

10.0

Private Internet Access offers a geographically spread server network across 84 countries, with a large portion concentrated in the US.

Previously, PIA took pride in its large fleet of servers not seen in any VPN before – 29,000 plus servers. However, PIA took down this number from its website to transition to Gen4 servers.

Gen4 servers, better known as Next Generation Network, offer Verifiable Zero Access, lightning speeds, and unlimited bandwidth.

Their network is optimized to deliver up to 10 Gbps. These servers are offered in around 56 server locations. This means even if there’s congestion, you won’t need to worry about the VPN speeds.

Geo-located Servers

These are virtual servers that PIA VPN uses in locations where it is not ideal to set up a physical server. The geo-located servers are spread across 35 different regions, mostly in Europe.

You can quickly identify a geo-located server since it will have a globe-like icon next to it. Geo-located servers also offer good speeds with unlimited bandwidth.

Port forwarding

PIA VPN offers this beneficial feature that allows you to connect or access services remotely over the internet by directing traffic through an open port.

Usually, port forwarding is used to improve torrenting, online gaming, making callbacks, and accessing devices such as media servers and even your security camera. It bypasses NAT firewalls.

Private Internet Access allows NextGen port forwarding through automated or manual setups through bash scripts. This is possible thanks to PIA’s built-in command line.

Manual configurations are tricky and best left for advanced users.

For automated setups, PIA has already prepared bash scripts for you.

These scripts enable you to get the best region and a token, connect to WireGuard, and finally, enable port forwarding.

Dedicated IP

PIA VPN offers a unique IP address that is not shared by other users. This dedicated IP address is useful when shared IP addresses are either blocked or not allowed.

You can use a dedicated IP address for online banking, online gaming, when remotely working, and even accessing your devices (IoT) over the internet.

Additionally, you will avoid CAPTCHAs and access services that blacklist shared VPN IP addresses. In a nutshell, you won’t trigger security warnings, and you will avoid account restrictions.

Nonetheless, you will miss the greater privacy offered by shared IP addresses.

PIA VPN offers dedicated IP addresses in five regions; US, Canada, Australia, UK, and Germany.

Streaming, Torrenting, and Gaming

Private Internet Access VPN allows you to stream content in HD and up to 4K without stuttering or buffering. PIA uses optimized streaming servers for excellent performance and a seamless online watching experience.

With PIA, you can stream content from Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, Crunchyroll, YouTube US, Eurosport, and many more.

However, you may not stream content from some services using their native applications. In this case, it is recommendable to stream through a browser.

You can also torrent or share P2P traffic freely and securely. You can use the multi-hop feature to hide your torrenting activities if you want more anonymity.

However, you might notice a significant drop in your torrenting speeds. Additionally, you can use port forwarding to improve your torrenting experience.

Besides streaming and torrenting, PIA VPN is also a gaming VPN. You can enjoy online games and multiplayer sessions seamlessly without any lags.

The Next Gen servers also protect against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and other cybersecurity threats. You can also use port forwarding and a dedicated IP address to enhance your gaming experience.

Bypassing Online Censorship and Restrictions

Private Internet Access VPN allows you to bypass various online restrictions and even other stringent censorships. You can even bypass the Great Firewall of China – although it might not work at times.

PIA VPN can pull this feat due to the multi-hop and obfuscation feature.

Privacy

8.5

Private Internet Access VPN has a 100% No-Usage-Logs Policy which it has severally proven in court. In its privacy policy, PIA VPN states:

“We DO NOT collect or store browsing history, connected content, user IPs, connection time stamps, bandwidth logs, DNS queries, or anything like that. We collect and retain zero user logs.”

Additionally, PIA VPN assures its users that it doesn’t store metadata or how long a user used the service.

However, PIA VPN collects information that makes it possible to deliver the VPN service. This information includes your email address, payment, and location for tax services.

PIA VPN further states, “the above information is not, at any point, associated with any activity done by the user inside any Private Internet Access Service. None of this usage data is recorded, logged, or stored in any way, shape, or form.
All collected Personal Data remains completely separated from VPN or Antivirus usage, ensuring complete privacy when using our service.”

In general, PIA VPN takes pride in ensuring your privacy is protected at all costs.

Jurisdiction

Private Internet Access VPN is based in the US, an unfavorable jurisdiction for a VPN service since the US is a member of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance.

Besides the alliance, the US is home to invasive security agencies such as the FBI, NSA, and the CIA. These agencies can demand user data while issuing gag orders – they can comprise your privacy without your knowledge.

Nonetheless, PIA is not worried about this jurisdiction since it is a no-log VPN. No matter the amount of force and compelling applied, PIA will have nothing to give since it doesn’t have any logs.

Additionally, the US doesn’t have mandatory data retention laws for private entities like PIA VPN.

To prove coercion doesn’t work on this VPN service, PIA VPN shut down its operations in Russia when the region seized its servers and demanded that it should log user data.

Verifiably Secure Infrastructure

PIA VPN promised to implement a secure verifiable infrastructure that relies on verification and not just trusting.

PIA’s verifiable infrastructure journey consists of some steps, and currently, PIA has done the following:

  • Open-source apps and protocols: PIA VPN apps and protocols source codes are available for the public to review and analyze. This way, you don’t have to trust PIA VPN since you can scrutinize the code. Open-source is good since it showcases transparency and makes it easy to identify and patch vulnerabilities.
  • Verifiable Zero Access: This means that PIA VPN adheres to its no-log policy. Even its staff is not permitted access to sensitive infrastructure that your VPN traffic transits, such as servers. PIA has also promised to update its community on all of its progress.
  • Random Audits: Finally, PIA VPN has begun to embrace audits. On this milestone, PIA VPN has promised to reach out to external auditors for random audits regarding its operations.

Encryption and Protocols

PIA VPN uses unbreakable encryptions to keep your connections and VPN traffic secure. It also uses safe and fast protocols such as OpenVPN and WireGuard. iOS users also get to use the IKEv2 (IPSec) protocol.

Generally, WireGuard is regarded as the fastest protocol, while OpenVPN gives you more reliability.

PIA implements encryptions using GCM ciphers with either AES-128 bit or AES-256-bit standard. PIA automatically picks the corresponding data authentication setting depending on the encryption setting used.

PIA uses the AES-128 (GCM) encryption setting on OpenVPN with RSA-4096 handshake by default.

This setting is secure, but you can up it to 256-bit for more security. Higher security levels will impact your performance, but, in most instances, changing the encryption settings doesn’t affect your VPN connection speeds.

PIA prefers the GCM cipher since it is faster than CBC. On WireGuard, PIA uses 256-bit as the default encryption setting.

Advanced Kill Switch

PIA has a reliable Kill switch in its VPN apps. If your VPN connection temporarily drops or gets disconnected, the kill switch will block the flow of your internet traffic.

By doing this, the kill switch ensures that your unprotected traffic doesn’t reach its destination. Thus, the kill switch protects your traffic from prying eyes like your ISP and even hackers.

Leak Protection

Besides using the Kill switch to ensure your traffic doesn’t leak, PIA VPN also offers protection against IP address, DNS, and WebRTC leaks.

These kinds of leaks are dangerous since they compromise your security and privacy even when connected to the VPN.

Usually, these leaks occur when internet queries are serviced outside the VPN by, let’s say, your ISP or when IPv6 traffic is not supported.

PIA VPN takes care of your DNS query using its DNS servers and disables IPv6 traffic.

You can test for leaks on your PIA VPN connection by using the following steps:

Step 1: Without using a PIA VPN connection, go to the IP leak test and note your DNS and IP addresses.

Step 2: Connect to PIA VPN and check your addresses as you did in step 1.
If you get different addresses, then your VPN connection is not leaking. Consecutively, you can use PIA VPN’s website to check for both IP address and DNS leaks.

Split Tunneling

PIA VPN offers this nifty feature that lets some apps/services use the VPN tunnel while others use your regular internet connection.

This feature is helpful when using services that block VPN connections or remote connections. This feature also lets you unblock online content while also giving you access to your regional content.

PIA VPN also allows LAN traffic. Thus, you can access your local network devices such as printers when using the VPN.

MACE

This is a built-in PIA VPN DNS level ad-blocker. When activated, MACE can block ads, trackers, and malware on various sites you visit while on the internet.

By blocking ads, MACE helps you save bandwidth on limited mobile plans. Your websites will load faster, which will save a lot of battery juice on your smartphone.

Antivirus

This is a state-of-the-art antivirus PIA offers as a low-cost premium addon. This antivirus is only compatible with Windows PCs and protects you against on-device and online threats.

The antivirus offers an ad-blocker, protects you against zero-day threats, and uses cloud-based definitions.

Identity Guard

Private Internet Access offers a free email breach monitoring service. This tool lets you know if your email addresses have been compromised if a data breach occurs anywhere in the world.

With this knowledge, you can take quick action to mitigate or prevent further data loss associated with your email and other accounts.

Ease of Use

10.0

Private Internet Access offers open-source VPN apps for all your devices. Its native apps are compatible with Windows, Macs, Linux, Android, iOS, and browsers (Chrome, Firefox, and Opera).

You can also set up PIA VPN on your router. For other devices that don’t support native apps, you can use the PIA Smart DNS service with 5 locations.

All PIA VPN apps are straightforward and have a user-friendly interface. The design and functionalities are streamlined across all apps.

Installation is easy, and the learning curve is very smooth.

PIA VPN is suitable for beginners and tech-savvy users despite the advanced functionalities.

Desktop Apps (Windows, Macs, Linux)

The Windows, Macs, and Linux apps are identical, fully-fledged, and offer nearly the same features. They also provide lots of customizations.

Although some functionalities may vary slightly, you get the same VPN service. Here is a detailed look at the Windows VPN app.

The default Windows app main screen is loaded with a connect button, VPN server selection area, an IP widget, and a drop-down arrow for expanded display.

The default display shows favored widgets.

Other widgets in the extended display include performance, usage, subscription, VPN snooze, and quick settings.

Quick settings host desktop notifications, Mace, port forwarding, debugging, theme, and more settings.

You can also access more settings from the three dots on the top-right of the default display.

More settings open up advanced PIA VPN settings. They include general, protocols, network, privacy, dedicated IP, automation, split tunnel, multi-hop, account, and help.

The protocol tab lets you change the protocols, encryption settings, and MTU. The network tab allows you to use PIA DNS, resolver, custom DNS, request port forwarding, and allow LAN traffic.

The privacy tab gives access to the kill switch and MACE. The dedicated IP lets you select the dedicated IP location.

The automation tab allows you to create rules regarding your network connection – such as connecting the VPN when joining a particular network.

The split tunnel tab enables you to select apps that use the VPN and bypass the VPN.

The multi-hop tab lets you use the multi-hop and obfuscation feature. You will also choose which proxy to use. The account section contains your username and details about your subscription.

The Help section allows you to submit debug logs, receive beta updates, improve PIA, and there’s a shortcut to the support portal.

Mobile Apps (Android and iOS)

The mobile apps are also identical and offer the same functionalities with a few differences. The Android app provides detailed features while the iOS app offers basics.

This is due to the restrictive nature of Apple. You can customize and tweak different functionalities according to your preference.

Nonetheless, the apps sport a similar design to their desktop counterparts.

For Android, the app store PIA VPN app lacks MACE – you will have to download it separately. iOS doesn’t have MACE either; instead, you get a Safari content blocker.

Browser Extensions

Private Internet Access VPN offers Chrome, Opera, and Firefox browser extensions. The extensions also feature the same design and intuitive interface offered in desktop and mobile apps.

The only difference is that the extensions lack extensive features and only protect your browser traffic.

The extensions offer PIA locations through a proxy service. Unlike desktop and mobile apps, encryption is implemented via TLSv1.3.

The extensions are compatible with proxy requests such as HTTP, HTTPS, and secure WebSocket. The extensions mainly protect your browser privacy and security.

Notable security features include leak protection and block Adobe Flash. Privacy features include the camera, microphone, location permissions, disabling network prediction, safe browsing, credit card, and address autofill.

Tracking features include MACE, disabling third-party cookies, website referrer, hyperlink auditing, and removing tracking parameters.
There’s also a bypass list – some form of URL split tunneling.

Support

10.0

Private Internet Access VPN offers extensive and reliable 24/7 customer support. This support is provided through:

  • Help center
  • Live chat
  • Email ticket system

The help center offers most of the help via the PIA website. You can be assisted with common knowledge issues and technical issues.

The help center consists of a community forum, guides, knowledge base, news, and a shortcut to the email system. Guides contain setup tutorials for every VPN app and other related information.

The knowledge base is divided into six sections; FAQs, billing, account, technical, best security practices, and finally, guides and articles in other languages.

The deeper you open the knowledge base, the more content you will find. The articles also have links that point you to other related content.

The community forum features suggestions and other topics; you can also see server requests. The news section is reserved for announcements from PIA. They are usually about maintenance and PIA progress.

If you are in a hurry, you can use the search bar. You will need to enter a keyword related to what you want to search.
The live chat is faster, and it gives you the option to transfer to an agent, which is a matter of seconds.

At times you might wait a little bit. The agents are friendly, informative, and assist you with a wide range of issues. If your problem is not solved, you are encouraged to use the email ticket system.

The email ticket system is not as fast as the live chat, but your issue will be solved satisfactorily. Usually, the ticket system deals with technical and account issues.

In addition to your issue, you will also need to give various details such as connection method and type, OS, PIA app version, verification details, and an account identifier.

Pricing

9.5

Private Internet Access offers the standard three subscription plans; monthly, yearly, and 3-year. The pricing fairly matches that of other premium VPNs.

The monthly plan is expensive, while the long-term plans are pocket-friendly. All the plans carry a 30-day money-back guarantee with a free email breach monitor.

Here is an overview of the subscription plans at the time of this review:

  • The monthly plan costs $11.95 per month
  • The 1-year plan goes for $3.33 per month. This totals to $39.95 per year
  • The 3-year plan costs $2.03 per month. This sums to $79.00 per 3 years. This plan offers a discount of 83%, and you also get 3 months for free

Besides heavy discounts on long-term plans, you also get a 1-year free Boxcryptor license. Boxcryptor encrypts your sensitive cloud files.

It works with Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and other cloud providers. In addition to the 30-day money-back guarantee, PIA also offers a 7-day free trial on Android and iOS.

If you refer a friend, you both get 30 days free of premium PIA VPN. You can share your referral link on social media and other platforms.

PIA also awards influencers such as content creators through the Private Internet Access influencer program.

PIA also offers premium addons at check out to boost your online security and privacy. They include a Windows Antivirus and Dedicated IP address at a small fee.

It is a win and way cheaper than purchasing the addons from other providers.

Payment Methods

PIA VPN offers various payment options you can use to purchase its subscriptions.

They include major credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and PayPal.

You can also choose to pay via anonymous methods for greater anonymity. These methods include using third-party gift cards such as Best Buy, Walmart, Starbucks, and many more.

For true anonymity, PIA allows cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Bitpay, Ethereum, and Litecoin.

Wrap Up

Private Internet Access is an excellent VPN service for privacy and security-minded individuals. This VPN is also suitable for day-to-day tasks such as browsing, streaming, gaming, and torrenting.

It offers advanced features that enhance your security and privacy. You can also tweak most settings and functionalities to fit your preferences.

Although PIA VPN is based in the US, you have nothing to worry about. This VPN service has a 100% no usage policy, and it has severally proven it is no-log claim in court.

Its VPN apps are user-friendly, and you get a simultaneous connection of up to 10 devices. PIA VPN gives you the best value for your money, and its subscriptions carry a 30-day money-back guarantee.