PIA VPN Review
Updated · Aug 18, 2022
Best for: Security and torrenting
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are becoming increasingly popular due to growing awareness about internet privacy and data protection, the arrival of new streaming platforms, and restrictions on P2P sharing.
PIA is an open-source virtual private network service that has gained a consistently following since its release in 2010. Compatible with all popular operating systems, PIA comes with many features behind a simple interface for a secure internet connection and malware protection.
PIA is a favorite for torrenting, speed, and streaming, so our Private Internet Access VPN review examines how well it performs on these fronts.
PIA VPN Features
This section of our PIA VPN review covers the most notable security features for a safe internet connection.
A kill switch protects your IP address if the VPN connection drops. Our Private Internet Access review shows that it immediately stops the device from connecting to the internet until the connection is reestablished, preventing the real IP from exposure. Unlike other VPNs, PIA’s kill switch is available in the iOS and Android apps and on desktop. That's just one of the reasons why it's one of the best VPN services out there.
With PIA, you can select which apps use the internet through the VPN, keeping you from filling up your bandwidth. This feature allows you to use local and foreign internet services simultaneously. You can even access LAN devices while being connected to the VPN.
Unlike other VPN services, PIA’s split tunneling options are easy to use through the app. While writing our review of Private Internet Access we also liked the inverse split tunneling, where you select the apps that connect through the VPN while the rest access the internet directly.
Many VPNs block ads, trackers, and other malware, but PIA uses MACE. MACE is faster, more memory-efficient, and doesn’t require a browser extension or configuration. It reduces battery drain on mobile and is available on all operating systems except iOS.
PIA’s list of malicious domains is updated frequently. Our Private Internet Access test found that it successfully blocked all ads we would have encountered without the VPN.
Many VPN services offer multi-device connection, but with Private Internet Access, simultaneous connections are possible on ten devices. The ability to use PIA VPN on multiple devices means that your connection is protected no matter how you access the internet.
PIA VPN Advanced Features
These are some of the unique elements that help increase Private Internet Access protection and performance.
The new WireGuard component is an open-source VPN protocol that is more secure, more stable, and faster than other protocols. PIA addressed privacy concerns with an RSA certificate-protected RESTful API, adding an additional layer of privacy to your connection.
Port forwarding gives external devices access to your device on a private network. This is useful for gaming, P2P sharing, remote desktop software, and accessing camera footage.
Given the risks inherent in opening ports for external access, many VPNs don’t allow port forwarding. PIA allows it for all non-US servers.
PIA VPN Servers and Locations
PIA has more than 25,000 servers in 99 locations across 77 countries, half of which are located in the US. In the process of scaling up, PIA also improved the hardware across its network of servers to enhance security and performance.
PIA VPN Speed
Because a VPN encrypts data and routes it through distant servers, users usually experience a decrease in speeds. The 25,000 servers offer better Private Internet Access download speeds, as it’s highly unlikely to overcrowd one server.
We used Speedtest by Ookla to verify this. To test the VPN’s speed impact, we measured it against the speeds we get without using the VPN. Here are the results of our Private Internet Access speed review.
The speeds we received without the VPN were 9.2 Mbps (download) and 2.87 Mbps (upload).
PIA auto-connects you to a nearby server, which was Singapore for us. This connection gave us a 41.3% decrease in download speed and a 44.6% decrease in upload speed.
We also tested Private Internet Access speeds for servers in the USA (Texas), the Netherlands, Australia (Perth), and India.
US (Texas) server:
The download speed decreased by 43.2%, upload speed decreased by 30.3%.
Download speed decreased by 45%, upload speed decreased by 41.1%.
Download speed decreased by 2.5%, upload speed decreased by 11.8%.
Download speed decreased by 47.1%, upload speed decreased by 8.4%.
Our Private Internet Access speed test places PIA above the industry average of 65%. They don’t match the top-performing VPN services, which score at a 25% loss.
A downside is the inconsistency of the Private Internet Access VPN speed. While our speed without the VPN was nearly the same, we saw a big difference while using the other servers.
Australia (2nd test):
Download speed decreased by 14.8%, upload speed decreased by 20.9%.
Singapore (2nd test):
Download speed decreased by 20.7%, upload speed decreased by 4.5%.
India (2nd test):
Download speed decreased by 14.3%, upload speed decreased by 5.9%.
The second tests would rank Private Internet Access speeds high among competitors, but the inconsistency can frustrate users. When testing PIA speed with WireGuard, we found no noticeable improvement.
PIA VPN Privacy and Jurisdiction
PIA is based in Denver, which means they have to comply with the USA’s disclosure-related laws. Because the USA is part of the Fourteen Eyes Alliance, it can share data with other alliance members. But PIA explicitly states that no user activity inside the PIA VPN is recorded, logged, or stored.
PIA VPN Security and Protocols
A VPN’s data protection depends mainly on their protocols. Protocols are different routes data takes to be transmitted over a network. Since speed and safety vary across protocols, PIA uses a combination to ensure performance while keeping your connection secure.
The default protocol PIA’s apps (except the iOS version) use is OpenVPN, which is excellent at bypassing firewalls. You can choose between TCP and UDP connections. PIA’s iOS version uses IPSec, which is slightly less advanced than OpenVPN but highly secure nonetheless.
The Private Internet Access security features allow the user to choose between the default AES 128-bit encryption or the more secure 256-bit AES encryption. Customers can find the best protection setting for their devices at the PIA support portal.
PIA’s desktop and mobile apps are also available as open-source, allowing anyone to go through the source code to check if the VPN is fulfilling its security-related promises.
PIA VPN IP and DNS Leak Tests
VPN services should prevent DNS or IP leaks to avoid hackers accessing your whereabouts, internet provider’s name, and browning behavior.
For our PIA VPN review, we checked the DNS by running multiple tests. Our IP and DNS leak tests showed no leaks as only the PIA server in Singapore was detected, keeping our actual IP address and location secure.
PIA VPN and Streaming Services
VPNs are widely used for accessing streaming content, as it allows users to stream content that’s only available in different countries.
PIA supports Netflix US, UK, Italy, Japan, and Germany. We also tested the Private Internet Access and Netflix compatibility for other servers and could access local content that isn’t available on our regular connection.
PIA also supports Hulu US, Disney+ US and Italy, HBO Max, NBC Peacock, and The Criterion Channel. However, you can’t stream Amazon Prime Video or BBC iPlayer through PIA.
How Good Is PIA VPN for Torrenting?
Due to the Private Internet Access P2P features, many people think of it as the best VPN services for torrenting.
Even though torrenting works without port forwarding, this element increases data transfer speed by connecting to the P2P sharing network. PIA’s subscription includes free access to its Netherlands-based SOCKS5 proxy, which many clients use for anonymity.
PIA allows torrents, but some servers are faster than others. Our Private Internet Access speed review compared the download speed without the VPN with speeds connected to the PIA servers when downloading a popular movie. We received a download speed of 600 kbps without a VPN for this file.
We were auto-connected to the Singapore server, which gave us a download speed of 450 kbps. We also tried the Netherlands and Australia (Perth) servers, which gave us nearly consistent speeds of 600 kbps.
Our PIA VPN review indicates that it doesn’t negatively impact the torrenting speed, but it’s worth checking different servers to find the fastest one.
Can PIA VPN Bypass Geoblocks?
Content providers like Netflix and BBC iPlayer use geoblocking to place geographical restrictions on their content, but it’s also used by governments to limit what their citizens can access.
While people in nearly all countries are subjected to it, more extensive geo-restrictions in governments like China, Russia, and Iran don’t allow VPN services. Since June 2020, PIA started rolling out virtual VPN servers across regions where VPNs are prohibited.
Even though we could connect to these servers without any issues from outside, the performance doesn’t seem as seamless from within these countries. Users state that while using Private Internet Access in China, the service may require technical expertise to bypass government restrictions.
VPN services that work in countries with restrictive internet laws need obfuscated servers to mask VPN activity. PIA doesn’t use obfuscated servers, which is a significant drawback.
Ease of Use
PIA’s minimal interface is very user-friendly, making it easy to select a server location, access the settings, and customize other features. The list of available servers shows the latency, allowing you to pick the best one for your area.
The Private Internet Access extension for Chrome, Opera, Firefox, and the Android and iOS apps have a nearly identical interface, making it easy to move across platforms.
As performance varies based on the customer’s IPS, location, and activities, strong customer support is essential.
The Private Internet Access rating in terms of customer support is fantastic, as they offer a 24/7 live chat service. We tried the chat at several different times during the day and received a prompt response each time. The tech aide even suggested additional resources to help with our issues.
When submitting a ticket through PIA’s website, we received an email response within minutes. PIA’s support portal is another handy resource, including guides, FAQ, community discussions, and a searchable knowledge base on a wide range of PIA-related topics.
Private Internet Access Price
PIA doesn’t offer a free trial. However, Private Internet Access pricing is quite attractive, especially when looking at long-term subscriptions:
- Monthly - $11.95/month
- Yearly - $3.33/month
- Three-yearly - $2.08/month
PIA offers a 30-day risk-free money-back guarantee.
PIA VPN Review - Verdict
Our Private Internet Access VPN review shows that it’s perfect for internet privacy, data protection, ad-blocking, streaming, and anonymous torrenting. We love the ability to use PIA on multiple devices, its user-friendly interface, efficient customer support, and attractive pricing.
Although the inconsistent speeds and the lack of geoblocking capabilities aren’t a big issue for most people, the absence of an obfuscated VPN service and the difficulty connecting freely to the internet will be a deal-breaker for some.
How secure is PIA VPN?
PIA VPN is very secure. Even its default settings ensure your connection’s safety through features like IP masking, DNS leak and IPv6 leak protection, data encryption, and a firewall.
How fast is PIA VPN?
Our tests show speed loss using PIA VPN to be better than the industry median but worse than the top competitors. The speed also wasn’t consistent.
Does PIA VPN work with Netflix?
Yes, PIA VPN works with Netflix. It has dedicated support for Netflix US, UK, Italy, Japan, and Germany. Our tests also confirmed the accessibility of local content for several other locations.
How much does PIA VPN cost?
PIA VPN has three subscription plans: the monthly subscription costs $11.95/month. The annual subscription costs $39.95 or $3.33/month. The three-yearly subscription costs $79 or $2.08/month.
How many devices can I use PIA VPN on?
PIA VPN allows unlimited bandwidth across simultaneous connections on ten devices.
Who owns PIA VPN?
Is NordVPN better than PIA?
The Private Internet Access vs. NordVPN comparison tilts in the latter’s favor. Even though NordVPN is slightly more expensive than PIA, it scores higher on security features, streaming support, and handling geo-restrictions. NordVPN is based in Panama, meaning it doesn’t have to comply with US laws.
Our PIA VPN review shows that PIA is a better option for torrenting because NordVPN permits P2P connections on only some of its servers, while PIA allows it on all servers.
Deyan has been fascinated by technology his whole life. From the first Tetris game all the way to Falcon Heavy. Working for TechJury is like a dream come true, combining both his passions – writing and technology. In his free time (which is pretty scarce, thanks to his three kids), Deyan enjoys traveling and exploring new places. Always with a few chargers and a couple of gadgets in the backpack. He makes mean dizzying Island Paradise cocktails too.
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