Private Internet Access, or PIA VPN for short, is a decade old VPN service provider headquartered in the U.S. Online, it is rated as one of the best in the business, but is it really worth getting?
That’s what I wanted to find out.
After testing the PIA VPN for a week, I was more than happy with its performance. Its apps for mobile and desktop devices work great. It easily unblocks Netflix U.S, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and even BBC iPlayer.
It is fast too and offers unlimited bandwidth for torrenting. Most impressively, it offers 21976+ servers in 76 countries — which is more than what any other VPN service provider offers currently.
All in all, Private Internet Access is a solid VPN service that is also affordable to get. But is it better than its competitors?
Is it worth getting in 2020? Does it have what it takes to be recommended on TheVPNExperts? Read on to find out.
Key Findings from PIA VPN Review
|Servers||21976+ servers in 76 countries|
|Best Feature||256-Bit encryption, Kill switch, DNS leak protection, WireGuard®, PPTP, OpenVPN, and L2TP/IPSec, Block ads, trackers, and malware|
|Does Private Internet Access work with Netflix?||Yes, and it also works great with, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+|
|Is PIA VPN good for Torrenting?||Supports torrenting and P2P on all servers|
|Customer Support||Professional live chat and email support|
|Money back guarantee||30-day money back guarantee|
|Private Internet Access Pricing||Affordable $2.19/mo 3-year plan with 82% discount|
|Other findings||Zero Traffic Logs, SOCKS5 Proxy Included, Unlimited Bandwidth, 10 devices simultaneously|
PIA VPN Speed Test Analysis
To cut to the chase, Private Internet Access is fast. Most of its servers only reduced my base internet speeds by only 20% to 25%. But…some of its long-distance server locations weren’t very stable.
To properly test what speeds you can expect, I performed multiple speed tests using my 100 Mbps connection and connecting to both long and short-distance servers offered by PIA VPN.
By the way, all of the test results you’re going to see below were performed from my physical location in the Netherlands.
|Countries||Distance||Download Speed||Upload Speed||Ping|
|Australia> Melbourne||14792.34 km||47.87 Mbps||41.22 Mbps||286 ms|
|Canada> Montreal||6453.43 km||73.09 Mbps||69.17 Mbps||167 ms|
|Switzerland||627.7 km||72 Mbps||74.34 Mbps||209 ms|
|UK> London||677.04 km||71.33 Mbps||68.87 Mbps||129 ms|
|Singapore||10468.58 km||41.52 Mbps||54.32 Mbps||204 ms|
|USA> California||7505.72 km||68.54 Mbps||70.16 Mbps||266 ms|
PIA VPN offers solid downloading and uploading speed over both short and long-distance servers. I was able to get a download speed of 71.33 Mbps, an upload speed of 68.87 Mbps, and a ping of 129 ms over short-distance servers.
Short Distance servers
When testing PIA VPNs short distance servers, I made sure to use the automatic server selection feature. That way, I got connected to the closest servers near my actual physical location in the Netherlands.
Here’s a screenshot of my actual IP address and geo-location without connecting to PIA VPN:
Through my T-Mobile connection, I first ran a quick speed test while connected to PIA VPN’s U.K London server. Once the test was complete, I managed to get a download speed of 71.33 Mbps, an upload speed of 68.87 Mbps, and a ping of 129 ms. As you can tell, my speeds didn’t drop too drastically.
Next, I connected to the Swiss server location. This time I managed to get a download speed of 72 Mbps, an upload speed of 74.34 Mbps with a ping of 209 ms.
While testing out both close distance servers, I was able to stream a bunch of content on YouTube in HD quality and also play Among US with low latency.
Overall, PIA VPN worked great when I tested its short distance servers. Now, let’s check out if it can offer the same performance over long distance servers.
Long Distance Servers
If we talk about long-distance speed tests, I picked servers from the USA, Singapore, Canada, and Australia. All of these server locations are significantly faraway from the Netherlands from where I’m located.
First I connected to the Australian server. Using the Ookla speed test tool, I managed to get a downloading speed of 47.87 Mbps and an uploading speed of 41.22 Mbps. As you can tell, this time my download speed dropped by 52.13%.
On to the next server location…
Next, I connected to the Canadian server. When I ran the test this time, I got a download speed of 73.09 Mbps and an upload speed of 69.17 Mbps.
After that, I connected to the Singapore server location. After running the test, my connection speeds dropped again. I got a download speed of 41.52 Mbps and an upload speed of 54.32 Mbps.
Lastly, I tested the speeds while connected to the U.S server. From the previous test, my speed jumped back to 68.54 Mbps download and 70.16 Mbps upload.
So to sum up, PIA VPN is definitely fast. However, if you pay attention, some servers performed better than others. But to be fair, VPN speeds are always subjective. Based on your location and ISP, you might get better or worse results than what I experienced.
PIA VPN Passed DNS Leak tests
To prevent you from using public DNS servers and exposing your IP address, PIA VPN offers a leak protection feature. This feature is enabled by default so you don’t have to enable it manually.
To test out if PIA VPN’s leak protection feature works as expected, I connected to its Swiss server and ran a quick leak test on ipleak.net. Once the test results showed up, it was clear that PIA VPN is totally leak proof.
Here’s a screenshot of the test result:
As you can tell from the screenshot, my original IP address from the Netherlands is nowhere to be seen. Also, all of my network requests are getting routed through Swiss DNS servers. This way, my identity is totally hidden.
To be extra sure, I performed multiple leak tests while connected to other server locations as well. Check out the table below for the test results:
|Countries||IP Leak||DNS Leak|
Overall, PIA VPN passed my leak tests without any issues.
PIA VPN Can Unblock Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus & BBC iPlayer
Much like ExpressVPN that I reviewed not so long ago, PIA VPN also managed to easily unblock 5 of the top streaming services without any problems. I was able to unblock various Netflix regional libraries, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and even BBC iPlayer.
During my streaming test, PIA managed to unblock Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, and more. As for video playback performance, PIA managed to play everything in HD quality.
Here’s a screenshot of me streaming “Unbelievable” on Netflix U.S with PIA VPN’s U.S Denver server:
I also tried unblocking various other Netflix libraries as well. After switching servers over servers, I managed to unblock Netflix UK, Italy, Germany, France, and Netflix Japan.
After Netflix, I switched to the U.K London server to access BBC iPlayer. This time I played a show called “Love Life” and it started streaming instantly without any issues.
Next, I tried unblocking Disney+. To keep things short and simple, I only tested PIA VPN with U.S and Italy servers. Both of these server locations worked. I was able to stream “LOKI” without any buffering issues.
Next, I tested Hulu. Since Hulu is only available in the U.S, I switched back to the Denver server. As soon as I got connected, I logged into my Hulu account and searched for a show called “Helstrom”. I simply clicked on the play button and it started streaming in no time.
Check out this screenshot:
To test Amazon Prime Video, I searched for a show called “Carnival Row”. As expected, it started streaming straightaway in HD quality.
Lastly, I wanted to see if PIA VPN would work with Kodi. I mean, who doesn’t love free movies and TV shows, am I right?
While PIA VPN doesn’t offer an add-on, I was able to run PIA VPN on my laptop in the background and use it with Kodi. Everything worked fine and I was able to stream a couple of movies without any connectivity issues.
So to wrap up, PIA VPN is exceptionally good for unblocking streaming services. I was more than impressed by its performance.
PIA VPN is a Great Option for Torrenting
Aside from unblocking popular streaming services, PIA VPN is also great for torrenting. The cool thing about PIA VPN is that it supports torrenting on all of its servers. It also offers unlimited bandwidth and security features such as a Kill switch, DNS leak protection, and a No-logs policy for complete privacy.
To test out PIA VPN’s torrenting performance, I connected to a server in Austria. When I tried downloading a 1.4 Gb file, it took around a couple of minutes to get downloaded completely. As for speed, I managed to get an average downloading speed of 5.4 Mb/s.
I also tried downloading torrents while connected to other server locations to see how PIA VPN would perform. Overall, after testing three more server locations (Netherlands, Belgium, Cyprus), I found it to offer consistent speeds.
PIA VPN Offers Awesome Apps
PIA VPN offers easy to use apps for all popular devices. I like that its apps are lightweight and designed with beginner VPN users in mind. Speaking of lightweight, when I ran the task manager on my Windows 10 laptop, I noticed that PIA VPN barely hogged any RAM and CPU power.
In terms of design language, both mobile and desktop apps look quite similar. When testing PIA VPN, I found it quite convenient to look up and change different settings. You can change protocols, encryption levels, and other settings with just a couple of clicks and taps.
As far as usability goes, you can quickly connect to a fast server near you by simply tapping or clicking on the giant power button. If you wish to choose servers manually, you’ll find it quite convenient too as the apps show you the latency across different servers. If you find any server that you like, you can add it to your favorites list.
Overall, you’ll love PIA VPN apps.
PIA VPN Offers a Legit No-Logging Policy
PIA VPN claims that it keeps no logs of its users, but is that true?
- E-mail Address for the purposes of account management and protection from abuse.
- Payment Data for the purposes of processing payments as required by our third-party payment processors. Note that we do not save your full credit card details.
- State or Territory of origin and zip code.
Despite being headquartered in the U.S, which is a part of the 5,9,14 eyes alliance, PIA VPN still managed to make it to our list of best no-logs VPN providers since it ensures no sensitive user data gets logged.
Judging by the history of PIA VPN and how it didn’t disclose any user data to the authorities in two separate cases back in 2015 and 2017, PIA VPN is definitely a service you can trust. Here’s a link to the Reddit thread if you want more information.
PIA VPN offers a 30-Days Money-Back Guarantee – Proven
PIA VPN offers a hassle-free 30-day money-back guarantee. Usually, most VPN providers don’t like to refund their customers. I’ve talked about the retention tactics of different VPN providers in my refund policy expose.
But unlike most VPN providers, the support representatives at PIA VPN were very professional when I asked them for a refund. The agent that I chatted with first inquired about any issues that I may have experienced with PIA VPN. But when I told him that I’d just like a refund, he just asked me to provide him with a copy of my order number.
After checking my account details, the support agent processed my refund request and told me that I’ll get my money back within 5-10 business days. Sure enough, after waiting for like a week, I got my money back in my bank account.
You can’t ask for a more simple and hassle-free refund process.
Key Features of PIA VPN
- 256-bit AES encryption
- Ad, tracker, and malware blocker
- Four protocols (WireGuard®, PPTP, OpenVPN, and L2TP/IPSec)
- Kill Switch
- DNS leak protection
256-bit AES encryption
PIA VPN offers powerful AES-256-GCM encryption to keep you totally secure online. The cool thing about PIA VPN is that it actually lets you choose different encryption levels as well. You can either stick with AES 256-GCM encryption or change it to:
This way, if you want less or more encryption, you can always step up or tone it down a notch.
Ad, Tracker, and Malware blocker
PIA VPN comes with a comprehensive Adblocker that not only blocks intrusive ads but also blocks trackers and malware. I’ve tested out this feature and it works as advertised. You’ll actually see it blocking ads in real-time which is super impressive.
Four Protocols (WireGuard®, PPTP, OpenVPN, and L2TP/IPSec)
PIA VPN fully supports industry benchmark protocols. You can choose between WireGuard®, PPTP, OpenVPN, and L2TP/IPSec. Because it supports so many protocols, PIA VPN is both secure and fast.
To prevent your IP address from accidentally getting exposed, PIA VPN offers a built-in kill switch feature. This feature will block your internet connection whenever you get abruptly disconnected from PIA VPN’s servers. It’s basically a fail-safe mechanism. I’ve tested this feature and it works perfectly.
DNS Leak Protection
Lastly, PIA VPN comes with a DNS leak protection feature. The way this feature works is that, when you are connected to PIA VPN, your real DNS is hidden. Instead of your real IP or DNS address, your ISP will only see the VPN IP address or VPN DNS address. This way, no one will be able to tell what websites you visit. I’ve already talked about the leak protection feature earlier in this review. Go ahead and scroll back for a quick refresher.
Analysis of Servers
PIA VPN has one of the largest server networks in the industry. I’m not kidding you, it currently offers 22779+ servers in 76 countries. No other VPN provider is offering this many servers.
You can find servers in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Oceania, and even in the Middle East. What I found unique about PIA VPN is that it offers a lot of servers in Middle Eastern countries such as Israel, UAE, and even in Saudi Arabia.
PIA VPN also offers twelve Chinese servers, but we’ll talk about its coverage in China a bit later on in this review.
Overall, if server coverage is something that matters to you, you’re not going to find a better option than Private Internet Access.
PIA VPN’s Apps Compatibility
PIA VPN offers excellent app compatibility. You can install it on Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and even routers. With its router compatibility, you can use PIA VPN with devices that don’t natively support VPNs such as gaming consoles.
PIA VPN for macOS & Windows
PIA VPN offers optimized apps for both macOS and Windows operating systems. If you have a macOS computer running OS 10.13 (64-bit) or higher, you can easily download its app from its official website. For its Windows client, you’ll need Windows 8.1 or 10 (32 & 64 bit).
If we talk about user experience, both macOS and Windows apps of PIA VPN are super easy to use. Settings are easy to find and connect to a server location takes no more than a second or two. Overall, I think their desktop apps work great. Throughout the time I tested each client, I never noticed any bugs or crashes either.
PIA VPN for Android & iOS
PIA VPN is also compatible with Android and iOS devices. Its Android app has a 4.5-star rating on the Google Play Store and is compatible with all latest Android OS versions. Its iOS app has a 4.7-star rating on iTunes and is iOS 11.0 or later.
If we talk about user experience, I found its mobile apps to work great. Though some features are not available on the mobile versions, you’re not going to miss out on much. Personally speaking, I think the lack of a complicated UI without cluttered features is what I like most about PIA VPN.
I found it dead easy to connect to different servers and the ping indicator allowed me to pick the best server with the lowest latency. Overall, I loved its mobile apps.
PIA VPN’s Browser Extensions
PIA VPN offers browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. Its browser extensions are super snappy. You can choose different server locations and connect instantly. While VPN browser extensions, in general, are secure, do keep in mind that only the activities you perform from your browser will get encrypted, leaving everything else unencrypted.
PIA VPN’s Router App
PIA VPN is compatible with most router models. If you have a DD-WRT compatible router, you can configure PIA VPN on it with a bit of effort. If you have the technical knowledge and want to set up PIA VPN on a router yourself, you might find this guide useful.
Does PIA VPN work in China?
Unfortunately, PIA VPN doesn’t work in China. My colleague in China tested it out extensively but couldn’t get it to work. I also inquired about it with PIA VPN’s customer support agent and he told me that PIA VPN among other VPNs is currently blocked in China. The support agent did tell me to use OpenVPN to get it to work, but my friend had no luck.
Best Alternative to PIA VPN
PIA VPN is a fast and reliable VPN service. Its logging policy is legit and it can unblock all sorts of geo-blocked content without any issues. But if I had to nit-pick any flaws I would say that some of PIA VPN’s servers didn’t offer the speeds that I expected.
Although PIA VPN is perfect in every other way and I would suggest you to look for any other VPN service, if you want to try something else, I would suggest that you check out my Surfshark vs NordVPN vs PureVPN and CyberGhost vs ExpressVPN vs Surfshark comparisons.
Do I Recommend PIA VPN?
Yes, I highly recommend Private Internet Access. It’s $2.19/mo price is super affordable and its server network is insanely massive. Also, it offers great security features, easy to use apps and it works great with both streaming and torrenting.