Private Internet Access VPN is a great product for a very good price – the monthly license start at $6.95 only. We like their protection of privacy and the fact they aren't really storing logs. Chrome extension is a great add-on and will make your life easier.
Probably the biggest downside is basically the absence of the proper user interface and low amount of server locations (only 28 countries).
- Cheap price
- Strict no log policy
- Minimum impact on Internet speed
- Great browser extension
- Low amount of server locations
- Basically no user interface
- Legally based in the United States
- Basic customer support
- User Interface6
- Server Locations5
- Customer Support7
Private Internet Access, or PIA VPN, is a popular VPN service coming from Denver, Colorado in the United States (although the company behind it is officially London Trust Media, Inc.). The product is popular mainly in the North American market and is great as a basic VPN service to protect your privacy. It does offer quite a lot of advanced features ((but not many server locations) and it costs only $6.95 per month.
Like many other VPN products, PIA is also available on multiple platforms including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, or as an extension to the Chrome Browser. It also supports simultaneous connection for up to 5 devices, which means you can be connected to 5 devices using the same account.
In terms of advanced features, Private Internet Access VPN offers Kill Switch, AdBlocker (called PIA MACE), DNS leak protection, and Firewall Netfilter Project (using). You can also adjust a lot of advanced settings like connection type (UDP/TCP), remote port, packet size, data encryption (AES-128/AES-256), data authentication (SHA1/SHA256), and handshake. Surprisingly the default data encryption standard is “only” AES-128, while most other VPNs use stronger AES-256.
Overall, Private Internet Access is a solid VPN with a good level of security and privacy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer many server locations – only 28 countries which is the lowest number by far out of all the vendors we have reviewed. Also, the user interface is quite confusing (in fact there isn’t one), but the price is very reasonable (only $6.95 per month). See the detailed features overview at the end of our review.
Pricing & Discounts – How much does Private Internet Access VPN cost?
As already mentioned above the PIA VPN is actually pretty cheap. The shortest monthly subscription costs $6.95 per month. The yearly one costs $39.95 (e.g. $3.33 per month). The best deal you can get is with the 2-year subscription which costs $69.95 (e.g. $2.91) and represents 58% savings compared to the monthly subscription.
Unfortunately there is no free trial of PIA VPN, however, you can take advantage of their 7-day money-back guarantee. Also, there are no discount coupons available; you can only use gift cards.
User Interface – Is Avast Private Internet Access VPN easy to use?
User interface and user experience are two of the biggest downsides of the Private Internet Access VPN product. The installation process is pretty simple and straightforward. The first obstacle is the application login since your username is randomly generated as a mix of random characters and numbers. It can’t even be changed in the client control panel, you just have to remember (or store) it.
The second issue is the absence of a user interface. When you try to click the PIA icon on your desktop it will show a warning saying a file can be harmful because it is from an unknown publisher. That’s super weird as the file binary is really not signed. Even if you decide to continue nothing will happen; no user interface will open.
The only way to access a user interface is by going to systray, right-clicking on the PIA icon and selecting settings. Then you will get a setting screen (see below).
The only way to connect to a VPN server is again through the systray menu which is really inconvenient and complicated for a basic user.
On the other hand, the Chrome extension is pretty simple (besides the username) and straightforward. It would be great if there were any simple UI like that for the Windows application.
Server Locations & Countries – Where can you connect?
Probably the second biggest disadvantage of the PIA VPN is the limited number of server locations. It offers only 28 countries and 43 different cities which is probably the lowest of all the VPN vendors we have reviewed so far. The number of servers (~3.200) is very generous though.
The full list of locations includes:
- Africa – None
- Asia Pacific – Australia (Sydney, Melbourne); New Zealand; Singapore; Hong Kong; Japan
- Europe – United Kingdom (London, Manchester, Southampton); Netherlands; Sweden; Norway; Denmark; Finland; Switzerland; France; Germany; Belgium; Austria; Czech Republic; Ireland; Italy; Spain; Romania
- India – India
- Middle East – Turkey; Israel
- North America – United States (Atlanta, New York City, Silicon Valley, Seattle, Florida, Texas, Chicago, California, East, West, Midwest); Canada (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver); Mexico
- South America – Brazil;
As you can see it’s not many, and in general other vendors typically offer 50+ server locations in different countries.
In fact, PIA VPN was available in Russia but terminated its operations in July 2016 due to a law which has been passed by the government and orders any provider to log all traffic information for a year.
Does PIA VPN Support YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, Amazon Prime & BBC iPlayer?
During our testing, Private Internet Access VPN worked well with YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO, Amazon Prime, Google, and Facebook. We have used various US server locations.
Surprisingly it is also one of the few VPNs which worked with BBC iPlayer! We set the location to United Kingdom, Southampton and the shows were loaded and streamed without any issues. Big up for the PIA VPN.
Performance & Internet Connection Speed Test
Private Internet Access VPN is pretty good when it comes to Internet connections speeds and its impact when connecting to various servers. This is quite rare, and in fact we have seen many other VPNs having a great negative impact on download or upload speeds.
As you can see in the table below the benchmark speeds with no VPN used were ping 14 ms, download 21 Mbps, and upload 9 Mbps. in Germany there was hardly any slowdown at all, whereas in other territories the slowdown was around 50% (especially on the download speed) which is OK.
For testing, we have used free web service by Ookla.
PIA VPN also features a “slow speed complaint” which you can easily send with one-click from the Windows systray menu. We are not sure how it works or what actions are taken when you send a complaint.
Private Internet Access offers a pretty basic level of customer support. There is no phone number, no live chat, just a simple form for submitting a ticket or direct e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
But there is quite a good level of self-service support, you can use:
- Best practices
- Forum which seems to be pretty active and you can get there a great free support by the PIA community
Private Internet Access claims to strictly follow the no logging policy (e.g. they don’t store logs of any kind of activity of their users). Like all VPN providers they store your e-mail and payment data.
They comply with all valid subpoena (court, government) requests since they are based in the United States. They also comply with DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) and will assist copyright owners and their agents that report a copyright infringement by a user of PIA VPN.
Private Internet Access even released an actual court record which shows they do not store any information which could lead to identification of users. The court record says “the only information they could provide is that the cluster of IP addresses being used was from the east coast of the United States”.
The company has also closed its Russian operations due to the law which orders VPN vendors to “spy” on all their users and store the data for at least a year.
So although they are based in the United States, they seem to be true ambassadors and defenders of their users’ privacy.
Conclusion – Is Private Internet Access VPN worth $6.95 per month?
PIA VPN is a solid product which will give you a great level of privacy and security while only minimally impacting your connection speeds. On the other hand, the user experience needs to be improved and there aren’t many server locations. Although it’s one of the only VPNs which supports BBC iPlayer from abroad.
If you don’t mind the lack of server locations and slightly more complex control, you will be very happy with the product. The price is also very reasonable (maybe even cheap) as the monthly license starts at just $6.95.
It’s a perfect product for someone whose priority is privacy and for whom using the Chrome extension VPN is enough. We would even say it’s a perfect product for North American users who are using a browser for online shopping/banking.
If you are not sure whether Private Internet Access is the right VPN product for you, take advantage of their 7-day money-back guarantee and try the product.