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Private Internet Access Review 2021: Overall Decent VPN

8.6
6th out of 376 VPNs

Published on: October 5, 2021

If you are looking for a VPN for private internet access, wouldn’t it make sense to use a VPN called Private Internet Access?

Private Internet Access (PIA), owned by London Trust Media, is a popular VPN provider that has a reputation for successfully giving internet users a secure internet connection and enhanced privacy online.

Because the internet is constantly shifting, VPNs have to work hard to stay a step ahead of the latest restrictions, blocks, and censorship.

To be an effective VPN in 2021, there are a lot of factors that come into play. A good VPN provider has to have an adequate number of servers, good privacy and security protocols, a vast server network, an easy-to-use platform, and an affordable price, among other important qualities.

To make sure that PIA checks off all of these important boxes that you’d want checked, we did an extensive Private Internet Access review to find out just how well PIA performs, whether you are using it for torrenting, streaming, gaming, or just browsing the internet privately.

If you want a spoiler, PIA is a good option for streaming and is even able to unblock Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and multiple Netflix libraries.

Keep on reading for more benefits of using PIA, and some of the downsides that we found when reviewing this service.

What We Analyzed in Private Internet Access VPN

To earn a place on our recommended list of VPNs, a VPN service has to meet all of the important criteria to prove that it can adequately meet our readers’ online needs. Things like speed, privacy, security, usability, streaming capability, size and quality of the server network, torrenting support, and price are all parts of the equation. Good reviews in most or all of these categories may earn a VPN, in this case, Private Internet Access, a place on our “favorite” list.

Here are the features we assessed to collect data for this PIA VPN review:

☑️ Speed: How are Private Internet Access’s speeds? Are you able to access streaming and browsing without buffering and lag? We performed speed tests to give you the scoop on what you can expect if you subscribe to this provider in terms of internet connectivity and quality.
☑️ Privacy and Security: Is your connection keeping your online information and IP address private and protected online? Is there top-notch data encryption? What about a kill switch in case your VPN connection cuts out suddenly? And what about your private activity: Does this VPN service keep any logs of users’ activity that could be potentially harmful to the user? Is your provider located in a privacy-friendly country?
☑️ Streaming: If you are using a VPN to access geo-restricted streaming sites – like Netflix, Hulu, or Prime Video – it’s important to make sure this VPN is strong enough to get through these sites’ geo-blocks consistently, and with buffer-free streaming. A good virtual private network for streaming also must have servers in the locations where you want to access your content, such as US servers if you plan on accessing a service like Hulu in the US.
☑️ Torrenting: On a basic level, it’s important that any VPN you choose supports P2P sharing (ideally on all of its servers). Next, it’s good to recognize that torrenting is something that could put you at risk if the VPN you choose does not give you a secure connection. For this reason, your virtual private network has to have a kill switch to cut your internet in case your secure connection is interrupted. Without this, your online activity and actual IP address can be exposed on the internet, leaving you vulnerable to hackers and prying eyes and without protection. On top of this, it’s important that any VPNs you look at for torrenting have a verified no-logs policy so that your torrenting activity won’t come back to bite you later on.
☑️ Server Network: Good VPNs should offer server locations in a wide range of countries throughout the world, ensuring a speedy local connection from anywhere. It is also important to make sure there are servers located in the countries you are trying to access; for instance, if you want to be able to watch Hulu US, you will need to make sure you have servers located in the US.
☑️ Usability: A good VPN has apps for MacOS, Windows, iOS, and Android so that anyone can use the apps on any device. It is important that the VPN you choose is easy to use if you are a novice, but also offers customizability for advanced users. In case there are questions about the apps or connectivity, it is also vital to choose a provider that offers access to 24/7 live-chat customer support.
☑️ Price: What is the cost per month? Does this service provide good value for your money? Is there a refund policy? Are you able to pay with a secure method of payment? Does your provider accept payment in Bitcoin?

Keep on reading to learn more about these important Private Internet Access features, and to determine whether this VPN service might be a good choice for you.

Speed

For pretty much anything you want to do online, speed is a vital component. If you are using your VPN for gaming and your speeds are insufficient, there goes your game. If you are using your VPN for unblocking geo-restricted streaming sites, poor speeds can mean lots of buffering and bad video quality. Browsing the internet safely — but with slow speeds — can mean that you are waiting and waiting for your pages to load, for which no one has patience these days.

So, how does Private Internet Access measure up when it comes to internet speed?

Typically, the ability to attain high-speed internet access is based in part on server size. PIA has over 35,000 servers in over 77 countries around the world, which is a shockingly high number of servers with a pretty decent global reach. Typically, a larger server size means better VPN speeds because when a VPN has too few servers, the small number of servers can get crowded, slowing down your online connectivity.

To assess PIA’s speeds for ourselves, we did our own speed tests.

Our baseline connection speeds were good, with a 68.43 Mbps download speed from New York.

When we used the Private Internet Access auto-connect feature, the US server to which we were connected to gave us a download speed of 40.38 Mbps, an upload speed of 10.43 Mbps, and ping of 45 ms.

Unfortunately, when we repeated the speed test on another local PIA server, we only got a speed of 19.21 Mbps. Though this is still a sufficient speed that was not too disruptive when online, it showed us that there is definitely a discrepancy in the speeds among PIA servers, even in the same region.

To test out long-distance servers, we did a speed test on a PIA server in the UK. Our download speed stayed strong at to 55.21 Mbps, with an upload speed of 9.34 Mbps and ping of 116 ms.

Finally, we connected to a PIA server all the way around the world in Australia, which gave us a download speed of 9.42 Mbps, an upload speed of 6.98 Mbps, and ping of 231 ms.

So, all in all, while PIA does offer some impressive speeds, its speeds are not quite as consistent as we would’ve hoped; and while the speeds were lower in more distant locations, they were still fast enough to give us adequate speeds for internet access with minimal lag or buffering.

If there is ever trouble getting good speeds on one of the PIA servers, you can take advantage of its live-chat customer service to help you quickly find a better server (out of its 35,000 options) with faster connection speeds.

Privacy & Security

Based on its name, it is easy to assume that PIA offers great privacy features. But most of us can discern that its name and branding is a (smart) marketing strategy — not necessarily an actual indication of PIA privacy. So, let’s go ahead and take a look at the actual privacy, security, and safety features behind PIA for ourselves to decide if its service actually lives up to its name.

Is PIA safe?

PIA is one of the safest, private VPNs around, with military-grade encryption, OpenVPN configuration files, DNS leak protection, a Kill Switch, and a strict no-logs policy that has been tested and proven reliable.

Encryption

Private Internet Access has top-of-the-line military-grade AES 256-bit encryption, but you’ll need to make sure to choose this level of encryption manually since the default setting is AES 128-bit encryption. While 128-bt encryption is still plenty secure, it is not the highest level that most VPNs offer as their default setting these days.

To test for leaks, we performed a DNS leak test and did not discover any leaks with PIA. (The risk is even lower for leaks given that PIA uses its own private DNS server.)

If you don’t want to change your protocol settings, the default for Private Internet Access is OpenVPN, which is considered the most secure protocol of the bunch. The only exception to this is the iOS settings, which use IPsec protocol.

If you want, you can switch to the newest WireGuard protocol, which is the fastest protocol to choose.

PIA Wireguard protocol

Split tunneling

Private Internet Access does offer split tunneling on desktop apps. Split tunneling is an awesome feature that lets you choose which of your online activity you want to send though your VPN’s encrypted tunnel, and which you want sent through your ISP for normal internet access.

This way, if you are using your VPN to access geo-blocked content in a foreign country, but need to also maintain your local internet connection so that you can access local sites, a split tunnel makes this possible.

To edit your split tunnel, you can go to “Network” in the VPN app and click on “App Exclusions.” Then, add any programs that you want to leave out of the VPN tunnel.

Kill Switch

Private Internet Access offers a kill switch, which is a protection online that is hugely beneficial if you value your privacy and security. If you are using your VPN and it cuts out unexpectedly, a kill switch will cut your internet connection to prevent your unprotected traffic and your real IP address from being leaked online.

If you want to customize the PIA VPN kill switch, you can go to the “privacy” option in the app and you will see the option to turn the switch off, always-on, or on auto.

Does PIA have an ad-blocker? 

Yes. Private Internet Access does have a built-in ad-blocker feature. You can turn on this feature on your app’s privacy settings under “PIA MACE.” Enabling this ad-locker will help block malware, trackers, and ads online.

This ad-blocker is available on MacOS, Android, Linux, and Windows client, but not on iOS at this point.

After testing this ad-blocker in real-time, we were pleasantly surprised to see that it did block a lot of the annoying ads that typically pop up on certain websites.

Logging policy

While there are some VPN features that, if sub-par, can be forgiven, a logging policy is not one of them.

Private Internet Access VPN has a very strict no-logging policy. If you look at their privacy policy, you can see that it specifically states that PIA “does not collect or log any traffic.”

PIA no log policy

Even though PIA is based in the US — a country that is a part of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance — we are still confident that it uphold its claim to keep zero logs. To back up its claim, in both 2015 and 2017, the authorities did demand logs from PIA pertaining to an investigation, and PIA had no data to hand over. So, in this case, the location of its headquarters is not a concern.

Streaming

If your main priority for using a VPN is streaming, you will want to be sure that your VPN can actually deliver access to the streaming sites that are important to you. Not only is it vital that your VPN can unblock these sites, but it has to be able to deliver good-quality streaming with no buffering so that you can actually enjoy the content you are trying to watch.

Let’s start with the most popular streaming service — Netflix — and the most popular library — US Netflix. We were happy to see that during our PIA review, this VPN was able to unblock Netflix US on all of its US servers. On top of US Netflix, Netflix UK, Australia, Canada, and Denmark were also easily accessed on those respective servers.

Unfortunately, there were some content libraries that were not accessible with PIA, like Netflix Mexico.

If you are looking to unblock a larger number of Netflix libraries, ExpressVPN might be a better bet. It has extremely fast speeds, seamless connectivity, and a network of servers in 94 countries worldwide.

If the US Netflix library — or the few other libraries listed are your priority, PIA does a great job at unblocking them, as well as sites like Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer.

Torrenting

If you are looking for a VPN that supports P2P sharing, this is it. Private Internet Access supports torrenting on all 35,000 of its servers, and it also offers port forwarding.

And, even though PIA is based in a privacy-unfriendly country, its strict, verified no-logs policy makes it safe to torrent anonymously from anywhere.

When you are torrenting, you need to make sure that your Kill Switch is enabled in your app settings so that you are never left vulnerable and unprotected online if your VPN cuts out unexpectedly.

Does PIA Work in China?

In order for a VPN to work consistently and reliably in China, a lot of time and resources need to be put into outsmarting the Chinese authorities, who are constantly working to block IP addresses coming from VPNs and restrict VPN providers from access to their population.

Unfortunately, Private Internet Access is not one of the VPN providers that prioritizes getting through Chinese geo-blocks. While you may be able to get through the Great Firewall from China once or twice, you won’t be able to reliably break through this wall, so it is not recommended that you use this VPN if you are planning on traveling to or living in China.

If it is important to you to have a VPN that works in China, we would recommend going with ExpressVPN, which has proven to be a reliable China VPN.

Is Private Internet Access Compatible with My Device?

The simple answer to this is: Yes.

You can use Private Internet Access with all major devices and platforms, including MacOS, Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux. There are also browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, as well as with certain routers.

The one downside is that the PIA iOS app does not offer the MACE built-in ad-blocker option, and the iOS platform does not use OpenVPN; It uses IPsec instead.

You can use Private Internet Access with 10 simultaneous connections on one user account, which is more than ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer.

Number of Simultaneous Connections

Private Internet Access allows users to connect up to 10 simultaneous devices to a single user account. Connecting PIA to a compatible router will allow you to connect an unlimited number of devices to your network, all of which will be connected to your VPN.

User-friendliness

PIA has an attractive and user-friendly interface, and its apps can be downloaded and set up in no time.

After signing in to the PIA app with your username and password, you can easily navigate all of the clearly labeled tabs and connections.

A cool PIA feature is that you can opt for either a simple display mode or an advanced display mode on your PIA app. For VPN newbies, the simple mode is a great option since it cuts out all of the details that you do not need to pay attention to as a novice. The advanced mode gives VPN aficionados the chance to customize their settings for a more fulfilling VPN experience.

Pricing

Compared to the other top VPN providers on the market, Private Internet Access is very competitively priced.

There are three pricing options when you sign up for a Private Internet Access account.

Monthly Plan: $11.95 per month Get PIA Now!

Annual Plan: $3.33 per month Get PIA Now!

Three-years+2 months Plan: $2.08 per month Get PIA Now!

PIA packages and pricing

There is no reason to ever get the more expensive plans offered because you can lock in the $2.69 price risk-free with PIA’s 30-day money-back guarantee. This money-back guarantee lets you subscribe and test the VPN for your needs with no commitment needed. There is no free trial available with Private Internet Access, but the 30-day money-back guarantee is a good substitute.

You can pay for PIA using a variety of payment methods, like a credit card, PayPal, gift card, and Bitcoin.

Support

If you are looking for troubleshooting support, you can contact support representatives using PIA’s 24/7 live chat support.

You can also reach out to customer service representatives on Twitter, or go to the support page on its website where you can find lots of guides, FAQs, and helpful information.

When we tested the PIA live-chat support, we were pleasantly surprised at how quick it was to reach a customer support agent, and how professionally our questions were answered.

Conclusion

All in all, we were very pleased with the results of our PIA VPN review, and we would definitely recommend Private Internet Access to anyone looking for a solid VPN.

To sum it up, Private Internet Access is not only easy-to-use for VPN newbies, but it is sophisticated enough for advanced users and comes with great customer service for any simple or more complicated troubleshooting issues that come up.

In terms of server size, PIA has a huge number of servers located in more than 70 places around the world and is able to unblock many in-demand streaming services, including Netflix US.

When would we advise not using Private Internet Access? For starters, if you are looking for a VPN to unblock the internet from within China, PIA is not the choice for you. Second, if you are looking to torrent frequently using an iOS device, it would be smarter to opt for a VPN that has a kill switch available on all devices, like ExpressVPN.

Here are some of the key highlights of Private Internet Access:

☑️ Top security features
☑️ 35,000 servers in 77 countries
☑️ 10 simultaneous device connections
☑️ Split tunneling
☑️ Port forwarding
☑️ DNS leak protection
☑️ P2P support on all servers
☑️ Ease of use

If you want to use one of the best, most affordable VPNs on the market, Private Internet Access is one of the top options out there.

We recommend subscribing to the 2-year plan, which will give you the most competitive price available.

Click on any of the links on our site to get the most up-to-date deals and promos available for Private Internet Access.

VPN service
Features
Best price
Score
Best Overall
  • Super fast.
  • Reliable & ultra-secure.
  • Great for HD/4K streaming.
  • Chrome, Firefox & Edge extensions.
  • 24/7 live chat support.
  • Outstanding!
$12.95
$6.67 /mo
Save 49%
Best Value
  • Fast speeds.
  • Strong privacy & security.
  • Uninterrupted streaming.
  • Ad-blocker included.
  • Chrome & Firefox extensions.
  • 24/7 live chat support.
$11.95
$3.71 /mo
Save 68%
Best Budget
  • Fast VPN streamlined for beginners.
  • Strong encryption & privacy features.
  • Chrome & Firefox extensions.
  • 24/7 live chat support.
$12.95
$2.21 /mo
Save 83%
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Honesty and trasparency - our two core values - make the internet a friendly place. Our reviews are written by users themselves, and are not influenced by VPN companies. When you purchase a VPN, we sometimes earn affiliate commissions that support our work. Here is an explanation of exactly what we do and how to support our work.