Private Internet Access (PIA) review

TOP rank 8.9 Reviewed by Michael Brown
October 23, 2019

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a VPN app you can rely on for most things. It offers excellent speeds, has incredible privacy, has security features, and is reasonably priced. Customer support is short of outstanding, but not much is needed to reach that top level. The number of devices that you can connect to the app to is 10, which is pretty impressive and above industry standard.  Be warned, however, that the app is not good for streaming on either Hulu or Netflix. Its servers, although many (3400+) are also thinly spread out (only 32 countries) and it has a 7 days money back guarantee. Other apps offer more than that. If you want a VPN app that delivers the basics and more, I would advise purchasing Private Internet Access.

1 year: $2.91/month
Save 71%

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a VPN app you can rely on for most things. It offers excellent speeds, has incredible privacy, has security features, and is reasonably priced. Customer support is short of outstanding, but not much is needed to reach that top level. The number of devices that you can connect to the app to is 10, which is pretty impressive and above industry standard.  Be warned, however, that the app is not good for streaming on either Hulu or Netflix. Its servers, although many (3400+) are also thinly spread out (only 32 countries) and it has a 7 days money back guarantee. Other apps offer more than that. If you want a VPN app that delivers the basics and more, I would advise purchasing Private Internet Access.

8.9
Speed
8.5
Security
8.2
Compatibility
9.3
Price
9.6
Support
Pros
Strong security-military-grade encryptions
Lots of servers in prime locations (Western Europe, Japan, Australia...)
Strict no logs policy
10 simultaneous connections
Reasonably priced
Cons
Sticky desktop interface
Streaming error on Netflix
Very few locations (32 countries)

Summary

Speed drop speedtest We check the speed with and without VPN, then calculate the average in percentage. The smaller the speed drop, the faster the VPN.
-16%
Logging
Strict no-log policy
IP, DNS Leaks
No
Jurisdiction The 5 Eyes (FVEY), 9 Eyes and 14 Eyes alliances impose laws that force VPN companies to hand over logs to the government upon request. Privacy Havens - These are countries where companies don't have to share their logs to the government and VPN users are completely protected.
UK (5 eyes)
Servers
3300+
Countries
32
Netflix Unblock
No
Torrenting speed drop
-41%Bad
Simultaneous connections
10
Works in China
No
Support
24/7 Live Chat, Email
Kill switch
Yes
Encryption AES-256 is the most secure type of encryption today. Other standards like DES-CBC, AES-128 provide lower levels of security.
AES-256
Protocols OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPsec are the most popular protocols which provide optimal balance between speed and security.
IPSec, OpenVPN, PPTP
Platforms
Android, iOS, macOS, Windows
Applications
Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Routers

Speed tests

Ordinary connection
Download: 2.4 Mbps
Ping: 10 Ms
Upload: 0.06 Mbps

Like it or not, a VPN app will slow down your internet connection because it has to re-route your traffic over servers that may be located thousands of miles apart. The question is but, to what extent?Speed tests like the one I performed, seek to answer this question. When it comes to Private Internet Access, I would say I was blown away by how fast the service is.
I used a 2Mbps connection and connected to servers located in four different contents and going by the results that I got, it is hard to say there was a connection at all. See for yourself.

Checking VPN servers

I would say that the average drop in speed was about 16%. This is impressive to say the least, given that some VPN apps cause a drop of over 50% which is terrible, especially when using an already slow connection, such as the 2Mbps I was relying on. Below are speeds for more servers.

Norway
Download: 1.98 Mbps
Ping: 174 Ms
Upload: 0.12 Mbps
Japan
Download: 2.01 Mbps
Ping: 420 Ms
Upload: 0.06 Mbps
Australia
Download: 1.97 Mbps
Ping: 430 Ms
Upload: 0.15 Mbps
USA
Download: 2.09 Mbps
Ping: 247 Ms
Upload: 0.05 Mbps

Average speed drop: -16%Good

Security features

When looking to purchase a VPN app, your chief concern should be the security and privacy protections that the app offers.

Military-Grade AES-256 encryption

Private Internet Access uses the AES 256-bit encryption standard to secure communication over its servers. AES 256-bit is the best encryption method available to humanity at the moment. It is virtually unbreakable not even by the NSA. It is one reason to trust that PIA will keep prying eyes off your online activity.
The encryption method noted above is used with a number of protocols some of which you might be familiar with.

Kill switch

A kill switch is a security feature that allows you to automatically disconnect from a VPN service if the app malfunctions. I tested it on PIA and it works like charm.

IKEv2/IPSec

The L2TP/IPSec combination is another protocol option offered by Private Internet Access VPN app. Like PPTP, it scores low on security but is fast.

SOCKS5 Proxy

The desktop application supports the use of a SOCKS5 Proxy to connect to the VPN server. The connection works as a bridge between your computer and the internet.
Caution should be taken when using the SOCKS5 Proxy because while it masks your IP address, the data that passes over the proxy is never encrypted.

Port Forwarding

Port forwarding helps optimize torrent performance and streaming. In layman’s terms, port forwarding “forwards” a port from the VPN IP to your computer. Not all servers support port forwarding, however.

Check all Private Internet Access features

IP and DNS Leaks

Want to know whether a VPN app makes you truly anonymous when surfing the internet? There is a simple way to do just that, all you need is to connect to a server and visit Ipleak.org and perform IP and DNS test leaks. If your real IP address shows, that shouts that the world can still know who you are and that it is not safe for you to use the app.

The performance was impressive! There were no DNS or IP leaks whatsoever. If you choose to purchase Private Internet Access VPN app, you too can also become anonymous.

IP leak results:
No leaks
DNS leak results:
No leaks

Logs policy

PIA has a strict no logs policy, although the company is located in the UK which is a member of the 5 eyes that share and mandate the collection of signals intelligence. I actually pressed them on this and they led me to a web page where they detailed their refusal to hand over any customer data.

I asked them a very particular question: What would PIA do if the UK government forcibly requested them to log user details. They answer I got was unexpected “the company would rather quit the VPN app business than hand over user details”. True bravery.

Unblocking Netflix

I’m sure that most folks living the good ol US of A don’t know this; that Netflix, Hulu, and ESPN reserve the best content for North American audiences and everyone else has to live on scraps. But if you are armed with a VPN app, none of that matters because you can actually trick Netflix into believing that you reside in the US.
As a person who has done this a couple of times, I can tell you that it is easier said than done. Netflix in particularly good at detecting proxy servers, that’s why you need to test the app first before committing to buying it if streaming content is your main goal.

Lucky for you, I went ahead and tested PIA to see if Netflix would detect anything. I didn’t like what I saw. This is actually the one big disappointment that I had with PIA. For some reason, I was rooting for the app, maybe it is because its performance in other areas had few if any blemishes.

Netflix
Netflix unblock status:
Failure

Torrenting

Some countries, such as the US ruthlessly enforce copyright laws. If you think about it, it makes complete sense why they would want to do that. Hollywood for one brings in billions of dollars in revenue and no one wants to see that lost due to some nameless persons downloading and sharing stuff illegally.

Torrenting without VPN:
265 kb/sec
Torrenting with VPN:
155 kb/sec
Speed deduction: -41%
Bad

But this is not about security, we have already established through DNS and IP leak tests that a PIA VPN connection is truly anonymous. Rather, it is about speed and whether or not using a Tor client like uTorrent with the app turned on will throttle your internet connection.I tried downloading a movie with and without the VPN to see what would happen. Although you might be tempted to say that the drop in speed was drastic, it really is not that much.

Tor Check

Can you use Tor with PIA VPN app? Certainly, and without any problems. The Tor browser, plus the PIA VPN service, will add an extra layer of security, making it very hard for anyone to snoop on you.

Tor
Compatibility status:
Success

Platforms

Android
iOS
macOS
Windows
Chrome
Firefox
Opera
Routers
Simultaneous connections:
10 devices

Private Internet Access VPN supports up to 10 simultaneous connections. It is definitely the most I have ever seen. The app is available to iOS, Android, macOS, Linux, Opera, Firefox and Chrome users. For this review, I tested the app on a Windows desktop and on an Android phone.

Although the app has a beautiful and simple interface, you can’t drag it from the corner of the screen, to another screen (if you are using multiple screens) or to any part of the screen for that matter. Before I got the hang of it, I was very frustrated. As for the mobile interface, there isn’t much to complain about, I liked its simplicity and the fact that you can alternate between dark and light themes.

 

   

Customer Support

Private Internet Access

Customer support is offered through mail and chat on 24/7 basis. When I contacted the chat team with some queries, they responded after about 2 to 3 minutes, but other than that, they were super helpful.

Support channels:
Email
Live chat
Help center
Phone line

Pricing

Private Internet Access VPN app is very reasonably priced. There are basically three pricing tiers $9.95 a month, $2.91 a month for a year and $4.99 a month for 6 months. All plans come with a 7 days money back guarantee.

1 month
$ 9.95
per month
 
$6.95 billed every month
6 months
$ 4.99
per month
Save 40%
$29.95 billed every 6 months
1 year
$ 2.91
per month
Save 71%
$34.95 billed every 1 year

When I purchased the app for this review, I experienced no problems at all and I only wished that the 7-day money back guarantee was a little longer as am sure that most people are accustomed to 30-days money back guarantee.