Since it is a global network, the internet is unarguably the most commonly utilized service around the world. However, due to the rise of many security issues on the internet nowadays, security has become a major concern for internet users. With that in mind, we’ve decided to review PIA, which is a VPN that offers maximum protection for internet users.
Being one of the most popular and leading VPN services around, Private Internet Access owes its great reputation to its decent speed, ease of use, and reasonable price. Although there is a couple of things that are far from ideal, the company’s general service is definitely decent.
If you’re on the verge of settling for this provider and you’re not sure if you should go ahead, then this review is for you. The advertising exaggerations apart, we’ve put this VPN to an intensive test and have looked thoroughly at every part of the service. We hope you will be able to make a great decision after reading this PIA 2020 review.
- A high number of servers
- Doesn’t keep logs
- Leak protection
- Offers decent speeds
- Affordable plans
- Blocks annoying ads
- P2P support
- Up to 10 simultaneous connections
- Doesn’t reliably unblock Netflix
- No Live Chat Support
- A short refund window
- Based in a country that is not VPN-friendly
- Poor server distribution
PIA ranks #9 out of 72 VPNs tested. Here are the best alternatives :
Is it a paid or a free VPN?
It’s a rule of thumb – if you want to enjoy the highest level of protection, then you’ve got to be willing to pay for it.
However, while Private Internet Access is a paid service, it has some of the cheapest plans around. Perhaps, that should make it more appealing for prospective buyers.
When you’re trying to evaluate a VPN’s performance, the two chief criteria you must test and review are speed and stability. Will it reduce you to the speed of a snail? Or will it let you down at the times you need it most? We’ve discussed all below.
In terms of speed, Private Internet Access delivers modestly fast speeds. While it isn’t as fast as ExpressVPN, it is still a fast service. When we connected to nearby servers during our test for the review, we only noticed a quite small 20 percent drop for downloading and a 16 percent drop for uploading.
However, the drops were a bit more significant when we checked from far away servers, but that’s typical of VPNs.
Without VPN (we were located in London) :
EU Server (Paris) :
US Server (New York) :
Asia Server (Hong Kong) :
Stability is another major concern for VPN users and PIA does well when it comes to that as well. With more than 3,000 servers in more than 30 countries, this provider delivers very stable network in 2020.
While we didn’t see anything about their uptime on their website during our test, we read the review of numerous users, who claimed that the service is never down. Of course, we also tested the service and never experienced any downtime, which speaks volume about the authenticity of the feedback we read.
If you’re a streaming enthusiast, we had you in mind in our test. For people whose sole reason for wanting to buy a VPN is streaming and unblocking streaming sites, this section of our review is for you.
To be honest, it seems Private Internet Access has issues with unblocking Netflix in 2020. The popular streaming service has worked really hard in the last couple of years on implementing VPN-blocking systems. Primarily, they are doing it to prevent people from accessing geo-restricted content with the aid of a VPN.
While a couple of VPN services are still bypassing Netflix’s restrictions, this one doesn’t look to be one of them. Overall, we were only able to connect to Netflix with only one of their servers while compiling this review. In truth, if your primary purpose of using a VPN is to unblock Netflix, Private Internet Access may not be the right choice for you.
We’d recommend you ExpressVPN which is the best VPN for Netflix.
As you cannot reliably unblock Netflix with Private Internet Access, it’s a similar story with BBC iPlayer as well. While there are reports that it was able to unblock BBC iPlayer a year ago, it, unfortunately, couldn’t get past their restrictions during our recent test.
When it comes to streaming, PIA is generally an all-around bad VPN provider.
While it may be able to get past the restrictions of other streaming services like Hulu and Amazon Prime Video sometimes, we don’t think it can reliably so, speaking from our experience in our test. We were only able to unblock both streaming services occasionally.
A VPN is a popular solution for protection-seeking individuals. With that in mind, we looked into the security part of the provider in our test, and what we found is what we’ve discussed in the next part of this review.
Where is it based?
Private Internet Access is a United States-based company, and that’s a cause for concern for a lot of VPN users. The United States has probably the most stringent, most privacy-invading regulations in the modern world, and of course, that applies to VPN companies.
The government of the United States has a reputation for coercing VPN providers into giving up the data of their users with undisclosed warrants. Certainly, it’s needless to mention how big of a concern that is to privacy advocates.
Obviously, the fact that this provider doesn’t keep logs means there is actually little they could share with government agencies even if they are requested to. However, they may be left with no option; they may be compelled to divulge your data that is with them eventually. This is regardless of how insignificant the data may be (like whether you are a client or how long you have been one).
Perhaps, that should worry you. Or maybe it shouldn’t. Actually, rumors have it that the NSA has broken some providers’ encryption, which means the US government could even be prying on your activities.
Thanks to the combination of intelligence-sharing agreements and surveillance laws in the United States, people tend to avoid VPN providers located there. However, that doesn’t necessarily make PIA a bad option for everyone.
Like we already mentioned in the review, Private Internet Access is headquartered in the United States. Obviously, that is a red flag to anybody who’s aware of the Five Eyes or the Fourteen Eyes.
However, while the provider can actually be requested to give up its data by the government, there won’t actually be any data to give up since it claims to keep zero logs.
To locate these, you’d need to comb the support section. However, the good news is that PIA keeps no logs whatsoever. Thus, it doesn’t even know when you utilize its service, what you use it to do or for how long you use it.
In conclusion, we think it’s sort of a mixed bag when it comes to privacy.
Remarkably, this provider offers the best security protocols. Users can choose anything between AES-128 encryption up to AES-256 encryption, which includes different protocols related to handshake and data authentication.
This allows users to exert a high level of control over if they want to prioritize security over performance or vice versa.
As for the VPN protocols available, you will also find an excellent range of protocols on the service.
There is L2TP/IPSec, PPTP, and OpenVPN, which many people believe to be the industry standard. Of course, the service also offers users a convenient way of switching between various protocols, which is an excellent addition. A lot of users review this service excellently because of its solid protocols.
Protection against leaks
All your efforts to spoof location and encrypt traffic with a VPN can actually come to nothing in the event that data is leaking.
Since the leaked data can actually give out your location and even your activities on the internet, it’s important that a provider offers something to prevent leaks.
Thankfully, PIA supports both IPv6 and DNS leaks protection, both of which are tools which prevent your data from leaking. To enable either of the features, you only need to navigate your way to the advanced settings. During our test, we also subjected the VPN to different privacy leak assessments and it passed each one of them.
Also referred to as P2P, torrenting is an activity that just can’t go away, despite the best efforts of many authorities. With that in mind, it’s important for a VPN that’s worth its weight in gold to support torrenting. Does this VPN offer support for P2P? Below is what our test revealed to us.
Is torrenting allowed?
Private Internet Access actually has permissive perspective on torrenting, so it could be a great option. Regardless of the client you choose, there are chances that it is compatible with this VPN in 2020. While you won’t find anything that addresses torrenting specifically on their site, we ensure you that it’s fully supported.
Excellently, the VPN doesn’t restrict P2P activities to only some servers. Instead, all of their servers support this activity.
Is there a Kill Switch?
Like a lot of VPN providers, PIA is equipped with a Kill Switch feature that ends a browsing session automatically when the service unexpectedly and suddenly becomes unavailable. While this is a great fail-safe, it’s worth noting that a lot of clients have reported that the Kill Switch of this VPN doesn’t work as advertised.
This is a concern because it could leave you exposed should Private Internet Access’ service get interrupted. All of the most highly rated VPN providers also have the Kill Switch feature in their service, and these seem to work consistently.
Therefore, if you don’t want any chance of you being left exposed unexpectedly when you’re online, we recommend you to choose a provider with a more dependable Kill Switch.
Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia have strict censorship policies that people want to bypass.
However, the most noteworthy censorship policy is that of China, which is so popular that it’s been named as the Great Firewall of China. Regardless of the restriction you’re trying to unblock, we helped checked PIA’s ability to do it while compiling this review.
In censored countries
While there are still some VPNs that are still bypassing it, most of them have even given up on trying to. Sadly, Private Internet Access is one of the many providers that aren’t able to bypass the strictest censorship policy in the world in 2020.
Although some users have successfully bypassed the restriction in the past using the more difficult to detect but less secure L2TP protocol. Even this is not assured, however. While it may be your lucky day, you may have to review your options if bypassing censorship policies is your main concern.
In restricted networks
If you are in a school or a place of work where your favorite social media sites are restricted, we’re glad to inform you that this VPN is capable of bypassing such restrictions. It will encrypt the data and then hide whatever you’re trying to access from the network.
Countries and servers
One of the chief metrics used to evaluate VPNs is the number of servers they have. More importantly, evaluators also hinge their evaluations on the geographical location of those servers. During our test, we found out many things about PIA in this regard.
As at the time of writing this review, Private Internet Access has more than 3341 servers around the world. Apparently, these numbers rival the numbers of some of the leading providers in the industry.
However, the 3341+ servers are located in just 33 countries. In comparison to a rival like ExpressVPN that has servers in over 94 countries, this is quite disappointing. This is exactly why this provider may enjoy more appeal in some countries but limited appeal in other countries.
North America is one of the regions that enjoy the majority of Private Internet Access’s focus.
In the United States, the provider has about 1500 servers in only 15 locations. It then has about 236 servers in just three locations in Canada. In Mexico, the provider has 33 servers located in just one location. Shocking!
Moving on, European users are likely to enjoy enough servers, especially people in the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom has almost 200 servers whilst there are 548 servers in the Netherlands. Other server locations in Europe include Norway, Denmark, Sweden, France, Finland, Belgium, Austria, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and others.
With just 20 servers, only Brazil has PIA’s attention in South America. Another continent that is under-represented is Africa, but that’s actually not a new thing with VPN providers. This provider only has 10 servers on the continent, and they are all located in South Africa.
Like Africa, the Middle East doesn’t enjoy much coverage also, with the United Arab Emirates and Israel the only representatives. Asian server locations include Japan, India, and Singapore, which isn’t really robust coverage. New Zealand and Australia are home to about 200 servers.
Undeniably Private Internet Access has a lot of servers. It server numbers rank it up there with a lot of the big players. They do not, however, have the required location diversity to be a top-rated VPN.
The provider points out on their site that they utilize just bare-metal servers, which are known for their superior performance. In addition, there’re squid proxy servers in some locations, which may help accelerate the rates of data transfer.
Private Internet Access doesn’t offer dedicated servers for streaming, as we found out in our test. In a time when VPN providers are battling to survive, not having specialized servers for Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and some other streaming websites is a drawback.
Apart from streaming-dedicated servers, the VPN doesn’t have dedicated servers for torrenting as well, but remarkably allows torrenting on all its servers. In fact, it doesn’t have specialized servers for any activity.
Compatible devices and simultaneous connections
In this part, we will review the platforms supported by Private Internet Access and the number of simultaneous connections the service can allow.
What device can I use with PIA?
This VPN is compatible with a wide range of devices and platforms, which includes all the current most popular ones. Some of the platforms and devices on which you can conveniently use Private Internet Access include;
- Windows phones
- Fire TV Stick
How many simultaneous connections?
In a world where a single individual has more than three phones, it’s very important to also find out the number of simultaneous connections your VPN can allow. Private Internet Access performs quite extraordinarily in this regard, allowing up to 10 simultaneous connections.
Since the industry standard is actually five simultaneous connections, PIA actually deserves some commendations. This means you can connect all your devices under a single subscription, and even allow your family members to enjoy the service on their devices as well.
Except if you’re a tech guru yourself, there are chances that you will often need the help of the company. Even if you’re a tech guru, you’re still likely to encounter something you can’t solve all alone at some point.
That’s why we thought it would make more sense if we could test the client support of this provider and include our findings in this review.
How to contact it?
It’s always recommended to choose a provider with multiple client support options. It is like having a geeky pal who is always there to help you. And it’s even better if support is 24/7 – that’s the most effective way of making sure that you can get help at any time.
Sadly, Private Internet Access has quite poor customer support.
We looked at it during our test and found out it doesn’t have any live chat for immediate support, which makes it inferior to big players like ExpressVPN, NordVPN and CyberGhost. For anyone who wants to contact support via the site official site, they will need to use the email option by filling out a contact form.
While this can also be effective, it cannot help you at all if instant help is what you need. We tried contacting them through the email route during our test and we didn’t get a response until after a few hours.
Is it good?
The client support of PIA is not anywhere near the best, as we, unfortunately, found out during our 2020 test. If instant client support is something you can’t live without, then you may have to look elsewhere.
Apart from the email option, there is also a knowledge base that covers virtually everything from technical issues, troubleshooting, account problems, and more.
Value for money
Value maximization is always the primary focus of everyone when making a purchase. It’s not different for VPN users. To determine whether this service will give you a good value for your money, read our review below.
PIA offers its customers three different packages, which offer the same features and functions. Below are the three packages offered by this provider;
- A one-month plan for $9.95
- A one-year plan for $71.88
- A two-year plan for $83.87
These are extremely reasonable numbers, particularly when you compare the pricing of this provider with the pricing of its rivals. The one month plan is offered at just $9.95, which despite not being the cheapest in the business, is quite cheap.
However, the long-term plans are where PIA beats the competition. For its one-year plan, you only need to pay $71.88, which translates to just $5.99 per month. But, it is the two-year plan that offers the best value for money, costing just $83.87, which equals $3.49 per month only.
It also comes with a three-month free plan, which extends it to 27 months instead of 24.
Means of payment
Private Internet Access accepts a wide range of payment means in 2020, which isn’t really overly surprising considering their status as one of the most popular VPN options around.
Nonetheless, they still deserve some commendation for their will to make payments convenient for customers. Some of the accepted payment methods available as at the time of writing this review include;
- Credit Cards
We were really happy to find out in our test that the company has put in place many reliable means that allow customers to anonymously pay.
Money back guarantee
PIA offers a 7-day money-back guarantee, which means users can opt out and get a full refund if they change their mind about the service within the first 7 days. Of course, this is nothing impressive because other providers like ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer a much longer guarantee.
Nonetheless, a 7-day window should be enough to test the service.
Apart from the regular features, this VPN also offers some unique features that make it stand out from its rivals. We put some of them to test and below is a review of the things we found.
Added just recently, ad-blocking is a feature that helps block needless ads on the web page. Apart from blocking unnecessary and annoying ads, it will also protect you from cybercriminals who set up ads as a window to hijack your data. This feature was really impressive during our test for this review.
Another outstanding feature we found in our test is the encrypted Wi-Fi feature. How this feature works is quite simple. When you use the VPN on your Wi-Fi network, it firstly protects the device via WPA protocol.
Thus, you need to input an authentication key before you can use the service on Wi-Fi devices. Many users have a good review of this VPN just because of this feature.
Another excellent feature we discovered in our test is the SOCKS5 proxy, which offers an extra layer of authentication. To put it more simply, it allows only authorized users to access the servers. Additionally, it improves the connection speeds, even though it doesn’t offer the encryption level required to users.
Yes and No.
Private Internet Access offers great coverage in Europe and North America, with loads of servers located centrally. However, that coverage isn’t as excellent in other parts of the globe, with just a couple of servers dispersed around the Oceania, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
It performs excellently when it comes to security though, offering all the key protocols and encryption methods. Also, they offer some of the lowest plans in the industry, which is a big factor as well.
However, the fact that the company is based in the United States means it will always be under scrutiny, which is a big red flag.
Michael is a talented writer who has dedicated a lot of time into making sure that everyone around the world can use the internet securely. Being an avid traveler, he has acquired a lot of experience while using different VPNs on his travels. When it comes to doing comprehensive “how to tutorials” or testing some VPN functionalities, he’s always the best pick ! He’s here to help you solve your VPN-related issues.