A virtual private network, or VPN, is a service that protects your privacy while you surf online by encrypting your internet connection and giving you an anonymous, hidden IP address. With so many services available, finding the best service for you comes down to affordability and how it keeps your identity private. In this Private Internet Access VPN review, we’ll show you exactly how the VPN works, how to use it, and how it matches up to other VPNs on the market today.
How to Use Private Internet Access
Without a VPN service like Private Internet Access or PIA, everything you do online and your location are both free for people to read. The service helps protect your information from just anyone’s eyes by encrypting your data and changing your IP address location when you access the internet. Keep your private information secret, away from spies, crooks, or advertisers.
Many people use a VPN service such as this to protect their information while surfing the Internet from anywhere, but especially to protect online security while you travel abroad or access a service offered from another country.
PIA is one of the oldest and most well-known VPNs available today, and they have a great reputation for the services they provide. They’re industry leaders who have been performing well since 2010, and the company even won the Most Stable VPN award in 2017 among many other editor’s choice awards over the years. A reliable and long-standing business is always a safe choice, no matter the service they provide. However, PIA even supports other organizations that work to improve the internet.
The service is designed to work with the built-in technology in your smartphone or computer, and they operate at a level to secure all your applications in addition to your web browser, no matter which major operating system you use. PIA supports most platforms and is compatible with the following OS systems:
They work with Firefox and Linux, and even offer browser extensions for Opera, Chrome, or Firefox. You could even support a router with some added manual setup to make them compatible with Merlin, Tomato, or PFSense routers, then connect a smart TV or game console to the router as well.
PIA VPN uses state of the art, advanced security measures to protect your privacy at any level thanks to VPN tunneling. This allows the software to:
No matter if you’re at home or using the open Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop, PIA instantly keeps your information secure when you connect to the internet. By sending your traffic through an encrypted tunnel, VPN providers don’t allow anyone to snoop on you.
Although PIA doesn’t come with tons of added features, it works well on both Windows or Mac operating systems. To connect, all you need to do is click the red PIA icon that will display in your dashboard to connect to the VPN server closest to you. You can also select a server you desire if you want to select one from another country. A small checkmark icon will pop up to show that you’re connected and free to roam the internet with protection.
The nicest feature that comes with PIA is the ad blocker they call PIA MACE. It blocks trackers, ads, or malware from affecting you while you're connected to the VPN, but the ad blocker is limited. While you can’t customize everything the ad blocker sets aside, the feature filters out unwanted ads from view.
PIA is simple and extremely easy for beginners to use. The features aren’t over the top, and they perform their duties well and remain easy to use. These include the ability to select your encryption, boost speed, and other low-level methods.
How Well the PIA VPN Works
The biggest con to PIA is that, unlike other VPNs, they don’t offer a live chat option for customer support. Instead, they follow a trouble ticket form they claim is 24/7 in North America, which is odd because 24-hours should be round the clock in any country even if the company is based in the US. They do have a Twitter account used for customer service purposes as well, and a detailed FAQ page with helpful answers.
PIA being a US-based company is also an issue for some people, as the country holds some of the strictest and most invading surveillance laws all at the same time. The American government has pressured some VPNs in the past to release user data with warrants, and internet privacy advocates also see this as a reason to go with a VPN service based in another country.
Some of the features may not be top notch, as users say the ad blocker doesn’t filter out every single ad or allow the customizability you need to keep certain ads at bay. The kill-switch feature also comes with some mixed reviews from users, with some people saying it doesn’t always work to block internet traffic consistently. Although, you can choose to enable or disable this piece as you see fit.
There’s also no free version of this service available. If you want to try it out, you have to commit for at least a monthly subscription. Sure, you can cancel at any time and the prices are low, but there are no free trials unlike other services available. There are also many free VPNs out there that don’t charge anything, but they tend to come with data restrictions. PIA stands out because it’s cheap, and it performs well under pressure.
Test ran to check the VPNs connection all work without fail, although some servers come with slower connections and load times. The servers are located in the areas people need them the most, and the download speed of around 60-65Mbps is more than you’d expect from a broadband line. Your connection can display varying results. Long-distance connections may also be slower, with Asia, India, and Australian tapping out around 30-35Mbps.
Overall, these tests show the VPN is pretty quick and performs well. There are no unexpected disconnections likely to occur, and you can even include the support to your Apple TV or video game console to protect all your devices. Although PIA is always improving their platforms and introducing new servers to reach new countries without coverage, and both data and bandwidth usage is entirely unlimited.
How PIA Compares to the Competition
Like many other VPNs, PIA won’t keep tabs of your activity while you’re online and will allow you to run the service on up to five devices for each license. Many typical internet service providers track the websites you visit and your personal information, then some sell this data they collect for a profit. Other companies will only log details like log in and off times to improve the service they offer. It’s important to know what a company will track, especially if you’re going to route all your internet traffic through it.
PIA has a no logging policy, meaning they don’t log or monitor anything. The company could have a huge amount of insight into how you spend your time online, but they value your privacy. Most VPNs consider consumer privacy an important topic, and PIA doesn’t profit from their user’s data. They will track your email address and payment information for their own needs, like logging on and paying for the service.
It works quickly in 33 countries and counting, and it’s easy to use on five devices simultaneously. There are also fewer restrictions on websites, although Netflix may not work reliably. Netflix’s detection seems to be a bit tough for PIA and you can expect to receive a streaming error message until you turn off the service. Most VPNs don’t work well with streaming services, although you may find others available.
PIA works well in Europe and North America, and they have thousands of servers to offer great coverage. There are servers in over 53 locations. However, they only have a few servers in the Middle East, South America, and Asia. This makes coverage a bit spotty for people in these areas unless you’re located near a server. However, the number of servers they offer is constantly being increased.
There’s only one server in Brazil and Africa, for example. If you live in the US or UK, you may not have as many servers to use to spoof your location. They’re also not available in Russia anymore due to new laws in the country concerning VPNs. PIA is more vulnerable to issues in countries with strict law against VPNs or that fall under US laws and regulations, as the government can force the company to release user data. PIA, however, doesn’t log data to help protect from this occurrence.
The company also has a transparency report on their website that shows the number of subpoenas or court orders they’ve received to release customer data, but they have never released anything in response. Having this report is nice because you can see the company really does attempt to protect privacy, even from the US government.
Compared to other VPNs, this is a large number of servers. This means the service is robust, but you will need to share bandwidth with other PIA server users. This could cause the speed to decrease as more people use a single bandwidth at the same time of day, overloading the server and causing speed or connection issues. A Private Internet Access VPN review from a real user will show the speeds are decent when compared to other VPNs. It’s not the fastest, but not awful either.
Although PIA doesn’t have the highest number of servers available out of any service, they are among the top companies to offer over 3,000 servers. However, the company doesn’t provide a server status page to check real-time bandwidth info and select the best server for you.
Overall, most people look for a VPN service outside of the US because of their privacy and copyright laws. This jurisdiction has been known to fall victim to mass government surveillance and spying from agencies like the NSA or from mass corporations like Facebook, Google, Comcast, and Verizon.
The encryption PIA provides is state-of-the-art, however, and they offer a much lower priced service than other VPNs available. They also offer access for up to five devices at once, which is the industry standard. Although there are some VPNs that allow more devices to connect at once, some come with no limitations on how many devices you can connect. However, they tend to cost more money as well.
Finally, although PIA doesn’t offer live chat capabilities like most VPNs for troubleshooting purposes, they do rank well in terms of customer satisfaction. Customers seem to love using this service, which is probably why they offer the pricing packages and money back guarantees they do. However, finding answers to any issues you encounter may take a few hours, depending on if you’re based in the US. Other customers have said finding answers or requesting a refund is terrible, as there is no support.
It’s possible the customer support department has fallen on hard times recently. PIA has claimed they plan to expand their support department to address these major concerns. Regardless, the company doesn’t hold up to the competition when most of which offer live chat capabilities or free trials to cut down on the number of inquiries and provide excellent, real-time support that’s fast and easy to use.
Pricing and Deals
Unlike some other VPN services, PIA offers monthly subscription options you can choose from. Although, buying in bulk will save you money. Overall, PIA is one of the cheapest VPNs available today and the pricing model is simple.
For a low price of only $6.95 per month, you can have all PIA’s VPN features. The service also comes with a 7-day money back guarantee if you don’t enjoy the product. However, you can save money over the long-term if you purchase a year or two in advance. You can get a year’s worth of the service for as low as $3.33 per month when you buy a year, or the best value is two years’ worth of access for just $2.91 per month or $69.95 total for the full two years.
While some people consider a commitment to a full two years of service just for the lowest price over the top, others don’t mind long-term commitments. It’s understandable that you’d want to try and test out the service before you sign up for two years, but the money back guarantee gives people nothing to lose. There’s no hidden fees or fine print clauses to read, and you have unlimited bandwidth and data.
The company will also accept various types of payment, including Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency. They even accept gift cards from over 90 big-name retailers, including Starbucks, Best Buy, Target, Costco, etc. This is handy if you have a gift card sitting around that you didn’t know what to do with yet. You can also pay using PayPal or Amazon payments.
As soon as you pay, you have instant access to their services. There are no lifetime subscription options, which some people may find disappointing, but you can get in touch with the company for a quote on bulk orders using your email address.
Our rating is 4 out of 5 stars because overall, our Private Internet Access VPN review shows this company does exactly what you want from any VPN service. They value anonymity and privacy, and they provide their services at an extremely affordable cost. When compared to the competition, PIA is nearly half the price and performs nearly as well. The only place they lack comes down to the unreliable access to unblock Netflix, no live chat support, and no free trial options. It’s a basic, fast service that works well.