Private Internet Access [PIA VPN] Review – How Good Is It?

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private internet access review

In this review of Private Internet Access, we’re going to dissect what makes this VPN stand out in the crowded market of online privacy tools.

We’ll look into how it keeps your info safe, how quick it is, where you can connect, what gadgets it works with, how much it’ll set you back, and how good its support is.

By the end, you’ll know if Private Internet Access is the right fit for keeping your online stuff private.

Let’s dig in and see what it’s all about.

Number of Servers35,000+ servers in 91 countriesSupport24/7 live chat, extensive knowledge base, ticket system
VPN ProtocolsOpenVPN and WireGuard protocolsKill SwitchYes
Speed8/10Good for TorrentingYes (Provides port forwarding for torrenting)
Value for Money 9/10Unlocks Streaming AppsDecent support for streaming, excels in bypassing geo-locks on streaming platforms

Features

Let’s take a look at PIA’s main features and how they perform.

Kill switch

Using the killswitch in PIA is straightforward, and accessible directly from the settings menu.

pia kill switch feature

It works on all operating systems PIA is compatible with Windows, macOS, Android, iOS.

While its accessibility and functionality are on par with other top VPNs, it lacks an application-kill switch. PIA will shut off all your Internet connections.

An application kill switch is designed to close specific apps when the VPN disconnects, ensuring those applications don’t continue transmitting data over an unsecured connection.

In contrast, an internet kill switch shuts down all internet traffic if the VPN connection drops.

The feature is particularly useful when you want to make sure your data stays hidden. For instance, if you’re torrenting or downloading large files and need to step away from your PC.

Should your VPN connection drop unexpectedly, the killswitch will cut your internet connection, preventing your IP address and activities from being exposed.

Split Tunneling

Split tunneling is ideal for users who play online games or access banking apps that require a local IP address while simultaneously wanting to encrypt other traffic, like browsing or streaming through the VPN.

enable split tunneling pia

PIA’s split tunneling feature is user-friendly, allowing for an easy selection of apps and websites to exclude from the VPN tunnel directly within the app interface.

However, its availability varies; while fully supported on Android and Windows, its implementation on macOS and iOS is limited due to platform restrictions.

Server Network

PIA has 35,000+ servers in 91 countries.

These are mostly located in the US and Europe. Other areas are also well represented among the 30 countries.

Accessing and selecting servers in PIA is seamless, with an intuitive interface that lets users choose servers based on country or city.

pia uk servers

Next to each VPN server, you’ll see the ping rate, which helps pick a fast, latency-free server for your connection.

While PIA has an extensive server network, some VPNs offer specialized servers optimized for specific activities like streaming or torrenting, which PIA lacks.

However, its wide distribution ensures reliable performance and access to geo-restricted content globally.

Speed

PIA offers commendable speeds, crucial for streaming high-definition videos without buffering, making large file downloads more efficient, and ensuring smooth online gaming experiences.

Compared to other VPNs, PIA maintains a competitive edge in speed, especially on servers close to the user’s location.

Using speedtest.net, we tested several PIA servers to check out speed. Here are the results:

This is a screenshot of the speed before connecting the VPN:

Starting speed (without VPN): Download: 28.84 Mbps, Upload: 2.50 Mbps, Ping:73 ms

speed test

After activating the VPN, we connected to a server based in Singapore and this is the speed that we got (we were performing our test while based in Europe.)

Speed on Asian server: Download: 21.44 Mbps, Upload: 2.32 Mps; Ping: 291 ms

speed test after vpn

Comparing the initial speed to the speed on the Asian server, we see a significant drop in download speed by approximately 25.7% and a slight decrease in upload speed. The ping also increased significantly.

Connecting, instead, to a server near our location, the drop in speed has been almost unnoticeable. You can see the result in the following screenshot.

Speed on London server: Download: 24.38 Mbps, Upload 2.82 Mbp, Ping: 42 ms

speed test pia

The drop in speed was much less noticeable. The download speed decreased by about 15.5%, while the upload speed slightly increased. The ping also improved significantly compared to the Asian server.

It’s known that VPN speeds can vary widely based on server location, network congestion, and the user’s base internet speed.

However, all VPNs add some delay to your connection; PIA does a pretty good job of keeping this slowdown to a minimum.

Protocols

The VPN protocols are responsible for the encryption of your data and make sure that your privacy is protected.

PIA supports OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols, allowing you to balance between security and speed.

pia protocols in ui

WireGuard is known for its simplicity, efficiency, and modern cryptographic design, offering fast and secure connections.

Its streamlined codebase and straightforward configuration make it a preferred choice for users seeking optimal performance without sacrificing security.

It excels in resource efficiency, making it ideal for mobile and remote access scenarios where bandwidth and battery life are critical considerations.

On the other hand, OpenVPN is widely recognized as one of the most secure VPN protocols available. It’s suitable for complex network setups requiring fine-grained control and customization

It keeps your data safe with strong encryption like AES and 3DES. It ensures your information stays intact with SHA-1 and SHA-256 hashing. This makes it great for personal and business use, as it works well with many devices and has lots of support.

Privacy

Private Internet Access is headquartered in the United States, which is a member of the 14 Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance.

Despite this, PIA maintains a strict no-logs policy, meaning they do not keep any records of users’ internet activities.

screenshot of pia privacy policy

The U.S. does have laws that could compel companies to hand over data; however, PIA’s no-logs policy effectively mitigates this risk.

There haven’t been any major scandals involving PIA selling or voluntarily giving user data to agencies.

Their commitment to user privacy is further evidenced by their transparency reports and legal battles defending user privacy.

SOCKS5 proxy

PIA also includes a SOCKS5 proxy. With this, only authenticated users can get access to the server via the SOCK protocol.

It routes internet traffic through their servers, enhancing privacy and security. The SOCKS5 protocol masks IP addresses, making it harder for websites to track them.

Commonly used for torrenting, the SOCKS5 proxy offers a balance between security and speed, though it’s not a substitute for a full VPN. Users should assess their needs and understand the limitations before opting for this feature.

RSA 4096 handshake

RSA 4096 handshake is also used. This means that if the information is somehow changed, the user (program) will know of it.

By means of RSA Handshake, the system always makes sure you are really connecting to a safe Private Internet Access Server. It will not redirect to an attacker’s server.

No one has ever managed to hack it.

Is PIA safe?

Yes, PIA is safe when it comes to keeping your data safe. To verify this, we connected to various servers and accessed https://ipleak.net/ .

Here are the results:

US Server: (no leaks)

pia dns leak test on us server

Japanese server (no leaks)

pia dns leak test on japanese server

French server (no leaks)

pia dns leak test on french server

As you can see, PIA effectively safeguards your data across various server locations, ensuring no leaks occur.

With this level of security, you can confidently browse the internet, stream content, access geo-restricted websites, and engage in online activities without worrying about your privacy being compromised.

Is it good for streaming and torrenting?

Streaming

Private Internet Access (PIA) offers decent support for streaming.

It excels when it comes to bypassing geo-locks on streaming platforms like Netflix, Max, Hulu, or Disney Plus.

However, you may encounter occasional slowdowns on some servers, impacting the ability to stream in high resolutions like 4K.

Buffering may also occur, affecting the overall viewing experience. It’s important to note the minimum internet speeds required for different streaming qualities:

  • 0.5 – 3 Mbps: Standard Definition (SD)
  • 3 – 5 Mbps: High Definition (HD)
  • 5 – 10 Mbps: Full High Definition (FHD)
  • 10 – 25 Mbps: 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD)
  • Above 25 Mbps: Excellent for 4K UHD and multiple streams

While PIA generally performs well for streaming, occasional fluctuations in speed and server congestion can impact streaming quality.

Torrenting

PIA provides port forwarding for torrenting, offering improved connectivity, faster download speeds, and enhanced security through encryption.

Despite limitations like a restricted range of ports and select server availability, this feature ensures that users’ torrenting activities remain private and secure.

By encrypting data transmissions, PIA not only optimizes connectivity but also safeguards users’ privacy, contributing to a safer and more reliable torrenting experience.

Compatibility

pia operating systems

PIA VPN is multi and cross-platform. It is compatible with:

  • Windows
  • Linux
  • Mac OS
  • iOS
  • Android.

Other platforms such as DD-WRT routers are also supported.

Pricing and plans

You can choose between three plans:

  • Monthly ($9.95/mo)
  • Yearly ($3.33/mo)
  • 6-month plan ($5.99/mo)

The only difference between the yearly and the 6-month plans is that you get billed monthly. The yearly plan will go for $3.33 per month while the 6-month plan will go for $5.99 per month.

It is not difficult to see how the yearly plan is the most economical.

All plans offer the same value except for a different price and all come with a 30-day money-back guarantee you can use to test PIA VPN free.

Payment оptions

There are various payment options for their subscriptions. Payments can come through either of the following:

  • PayPal
  • Visa
  • Credit Cards
  • Amazon
  • CashU
  • Google Wallet

For anonymity, the company accepts Bitcoin and also all major gift cards. This way, you don’t have to worry about anyone tracking you, even the government.

private internet access pay with bitcoin

Customer support

Private Internet Access provides various customer support options, including 24/7 live chat.

It also has an extensive knowledge base with FAQs and support pages organized into categories for easy access.

Additionally, it offers a ticket system for efficient issue resolution.

Its website features a message-like help platform that suggests solutions based on keywords entered by users, simplifying the support process.

Moreover, it maintains a VPN blog updated weekly, offering insights into VPN operations, security, and privacy.

How to use PIA

Signing up and log in

To enjoy the service, you need to register. Registration entails a few simple steps:

  1. Choose your preferred subscription plan
  2. Pay for it using your preferred payment method
  3. You are sent your login credentials via the email you used for the subscription.
  4. Download the Private Internet Access client for your device
  5. Follow the installation guides for your platform.

Running the client (Windows)

After installing the desktop client, you will be required to log in using the credentials you were provided via the email you used to make your subscription.

pia app login

You might need to perform some simple settings at the login interface such as:

  • Auto-connect
  • Start the app at login
  • Show desktop notifications

These settings are anyway extremely easy and intuitive. We believe even inexperienced users can go through them comfortably.

The interface

PIA VPN is not the most user-friendly on the market. An inexperienced user may at first get confused and need to spend some time to understand how to operate it.

The opening screen is pretty simple though. You will see a list of recommended servers and a big button to activate the VPN. Just click on the server you want and then click the button.

pia connect button

As the VPN connection is established (usually it will take just a few seconds) the button will turn green.

However, when you expand the app, things can get a bit confusing for some users. From the interface, you can totally control the functions of your VPN but the design is a bit cluttered and may disorient users at first.

pia uk london

Following you will find some tutorials on how to use the app and how to set the most important security features.

Server selection

Besides the suggested servers that you can see at the start of the app, you have the option to choose among 3300+ servers in 30 countries.

Clicking on the arrow next to the server you will be granted access to the full list of VPN servers from which you can choose the most suitable for your needs.

vpn server options
private internet access vpn server list

Encryption settings

Encryption setting involves how encryption will take place. PIA VPN recommends using the default settings due to speed and performance factors, but there are still other parameters that can be used.

You can access the security settings by clicking on the three dots in the Quick Settings mask

private internet access reconnection needed

From this window, click on “Connection” to adjust the encryption settings (even though you are recommended to use the default ones.)

You can modify the Data Encryption, Handshake, Connection type and more.

pia connection options

Mobile app

Smartphones have grown more common over the years and so are the security concerns facing users.

This VPN takes care of the vulnerabilities facing smartphone users by availing Android and iOS clients.

The App for both Android and iOS can be said to be a replica of the client for Windows and macOS. It, however, organizes its features in a slightly different way

It offers nearly the same features such as a Kill Switch and advanced encryption options to choose from.

Connection settings are also similar. 

  • TCP/UDP
  • Use of the secure socket layer
  • Auto connect
private internet access mobile apps
pia connected to vpn
Private Internet Acces

Private Internet Acces

Benefit from lightning-fast speeds and bullet-proof security with PIA VPN.

Private Internet Access review – Verdict

To sum up this Private Internet Access review, we’ll say it’s a good VPN choice for most use cases.

With its easy-to-use interface, strong security measures, and wide range of servers, PIA offers a safe browsing experience.

Whether you’re streaming, torrenting, or just surfing the web, PIA keeps your data private.