PIA VPN Review
Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN may be one of the few VPN providers today that lives up to the hype. It is common for many companies to make promises they simply can’t keep. In the case of PIA, the provider does a pretty good job of satisfying the claims its makes about its VPN service. Of all the services we’ve reviewed, Private Internet Access VPN scores high marks in all categories. If you want reliability, speed, security, and good customer service, this is a provider worth looking at.
About Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access VPN is a subsidiary of London Trust Media Inc., and that name might throw up some cautionary flags. The UK enforces logging among its VPN providers. However, the name of the company is something of a red herring in this case. It is actually operated out of Michigan in the United States. The provider also makes no attempt to hide its country of origin. This is a certain amount of comfort to be found in the company’s transparency.
The company was founded by individuals who observed a stunning lack of privacy in their dealings with marketing and advertising firms. Dismayed by how easy it was for these companies to collect the private information and browsing habits of Internet users, the founders of PIA determined to apply themselves to offering a reliable solution.
The overall commitment of Private Internet Access VPN to security and online anonymity can be observed in the strong encryption and protocols PIA uses, but it is also apparent in the company’s support of many organizations that strive to uphold Internet freedom. Organizations supported by PIA include Freenode, Fight For The Future, Liberties Report, and RightsCon. PIA has been mentioned in the pages of Forbes, PC World, Kiplinger’s, as well as on CBS News. They have a decent reputation in the industry and most customer reviews you will find are favorable.
With all that being said, an obvious question must be asked. With so much mainstream support, is PIA vulnerable to being influenced by other corporate entities or even governments that have a reputation for attempts to invade the privacy of Internet users? To answer that question, we point to the fact that Private Internet Access VPN was the first provider to issue a formal statement in response to the revelations of Edward Snowden in 2013 about the NSA’s use of PRISM in the United States. In that statement, PIA assured its users that the company was committed to protecting the privacy and liberties of its clients. PIA further stated that it would refuse any requests from government agencies to track user activity. It seems like this provider is willing to stand strong. (..)
PIA was founded by Andrew Lee. Lee still maintains an important role in the company’s day-to-day operations. The provider has a good customer service staff that, in our experience, is both knowledgeable and friendly. They have a good server network and downtime is kept to a minimum thanks to tech professionals with many years of VPN experience. When you add it all up, this provider earns the positive reviews they receive.
Private Internet Access VPN Speed
One of the most important parts of reviewing a VPN provider is to assess the speed of its connections. Speed is a crucial consideration for VPN users, especially those who use the service to stream content in areas where certain services are restricted. Expats and visitors to foreign countries want to be able to access their Netflix account, use Skype to chat with family back home, and benefit from other apps that require a good connection speed in order to be effective. Some VPN providers do so poorly in the speed department that having their service becomes virtually worthless. The best providers like VPNaccounts.com offer speed that comes very close to that of your unsecured connection.
PIA has been speed tested to determine the suitability of its servers for streaming media. The best speeds were achieved on the company’s Dutch servers. Here the average download speed was 12 mbps, very respectable within the industry. The UK servers averaged 10 mbps which should be fast enough to accommodate various forms of use. On the US servers, download speeds offered virtually no difference between the VPN and an unsecured connection.
Those who use P2P services may find download speeds in some areas to be less than adequate. This might be problematic for some, but bear in mind that most VPN providers have ceased to provide P2P support in the wake of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). It is simply not worth the risk to providers and P2P is not recommended even when using a VPN.
Upload speeds for PIA servers averaged as high as 11 mbps in the UK and 9 mbps in the US. Overall, Private Internet Access VPN ranks high in the speed department when compared with other providers.
Private Access VPN Features and Price
This provider has a nice pricing package that is enhanced by the presence of a 7-day money back guarantee. You can essentially test drive the services for a full week to see if they are a good fit for you. That is a nice feature because you really don’t know if a VPN is going to suit your needs until you try it out.
Pricing by PIA is straightforward without the gimmicks offered by some VPN providers. You are offered a choice of month-to-month, six month, or yearly subscriptions. The price per month goes down as the length of the subscription goes up. A month-to-month plan costs $6.95 per month. The six month package is $35.95 which amounts to $5.99 per month. The yearly package is the best value at just $39.95 which comes out to $3.33 per month. All plans are a recurring subscription.
One of the best things about this company is all of the payment methods they offer. They accept PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, Amazon Payments, Discover, American Express, and many other payment processors like PayGarden and OKPay.
Private Internet Access VPN also accepts a form of payment that we have never seen offered before. The provider will let you pay with gift cards for major retail outlets. In other words, if you have a Target gift card and want to pay with that, they’ll accept it. They also accept gift cards from Starbucks, Costco, and hundreds of other shops. They best part about this is that you can use these gift cards to pay for service anonymously. In a way, paying with a gift card is even more anonymous than using Bitcoin.
PIA has more than 3,000 servers in over 25 countries. That is more than enough to conquer just about any geo restriction a user will encounter. As mentioned above, this provider offers P2P support. The company blocks malware, ads, and trackers that can compromise your security. Users are permitted to have five simultaneous connections with their account, which is beneficial for protecting all of your devices.
Private Internet Access VPN retains no traffic logs, offers unlimited bandwidth, and includes a SOCKS5 Proxy.
Connecting to Private Internet Access VPN
After buying a vpn account, you can easily use PIA VPN with the existing VPN client on your device. No additional download is required. Today, virtually all Internet-ready devices come with a built-in VPN client. This includes desktops, laptop computers, smartphones, tablets, and even game systems like the PS4. All you really need to do is input the credentials provided by this provider after you subscribe.
If you want, Private Internet Access VPN does provide its own client that you can download for the Windows operating system. It isn’t visually fancy but it does have some nice built-in features that you might find useful. You can view and change the security protocols you want to use, and it is easy to switch servers with a simple click or tap. There is also a VPN killswitch option which you can select in order to prevent yourself from being exposed if the VPN connection drops.
PIA also provides convenient apps for both the iOS and Android platforms, so if you are mainly using the service on one of those devices it will probably be more convenient to download the appropriate app.
Private Internet Access VPN Security
There are a number of choices when it comes to the security protocols offered by PIA VPN. The standard protocols of PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, and OpenVPN are available. In most cases, the OpenVPN protocol is going to be the best choice for most users.
Thing get even better when it comes to encryption. Private Internet Access VPN will protect you with AES-256 encryption, but that is just the beginning. You can also further authenticate with SHA256 and handshake with RSA 4096. It should be noted that using the handshake will administer a significant reduction in speed. All this probably sounds somewhat overwhelming to most VPN users, though, who find the standard encryption offered by the VPN tunnel to be enough.
This provider takes the same approach that many VPN companies do in regards to logging traffic. They do not log or retain logs of your browsing activity. The reason this is important is because any provider could be compelled to turn over logs at any time by a government agency. If those agencies came knocking with a court order, there would be little that could prevent them from obtaining logs if there were any to obtain. The best way to safeguard the security of individuals is to maintain no logs. You cannot turn over anything that you do not have.
Private Internet Access VPN Security
There are many positives for PIA which include:
- A very reasonable pricing model.
- Exceptional download and upload speeds.
- A 7-day money back guarantee.
- Advanced security measures.
Numerous payment methods accepted including gift cards and Bitcoin.
We only found one disadvantage with this provider:
- Live chat customer service is no longer available. All requests are handled by support ticket, but the response times are great.