Back

Private Internet Access review: A primer on what a VPN does and what to look for in a VPN

Last updated: October 14, 2021

If you’re in the market for a VPN provider, then you’ve probably heard about Private Internet Access (PIA). Being one of the most popular VPNs out there, you might be wondering whether PIA is the right choice for you.

We’ll help you answer that question.

To be precise, we’ll cover everything from features to pricing, technical support, pros and cons, and even potential alternatives so you can make the most informed decision.

Let’s get straight into it.

What is Private Internet Access VPN?

Private Internet Access (also known as PIA) is an open-source VPN service popular for its focus on privacy and security for the casual user.

Private Internet Access' homepage screenshot

PIA offers solid security credentials, a privacy-friendly service, and great speeds for torrenting and streaming, especially in the west.

If you’re looking for a VPN provider that helps you download files securely, protects your information from cyber threats, and unblock Netflix libraries in other countries, PIA may be a good fit for you.

As of November 2019, Private Internet Access was acquired by Kape Technologies, the large cybersecurity company behind Cyberghost and Zenmate.

What does PIA offer?

Now that you understand what Private Internet Access is all about, the question becomes: what does it offer? More importantly, is it worth it?

The short answer is that it depends on what you’re looking for.

If you’re a casual user looking for a balance between affordability and reliability and your goal is to get better entertainment while improving your security, PIA is definitely worth it.

To help you make a more informed decision, though, let’s cover exactly what PIA brings to the table, starting with features.

PIA’s top features

In terms of features, Private Internet Access offers everything you need to keep your information secure, including:

  • Encrypted Wi-Fi: Get access to military-grade encryption and protect your wireless network.
  • P2P support: Download large files securely and with speed.
  • WireGuard and OpenVPN: Access lower ping times and much faster speeds.
  • Adblocker: Prevent advertisers from installing trackers, block ads, and avoid websites with malware.
  • SOCKS5 proxy: A general-purpose proxy that supports HTTP, SMTP, and FTP traffic.
  • Multiple VPN gateways: Share available bandwidth with multiple VPN tunnels.
  • Instant setup: simple, fast, and secure setup to start using the service immediately.
  • Multi-device compatibility: use up to 10 different devices simultaneously.

Speed and performance

Keep in mind; all VPN services will lower your speed a bit.

You’re never going to find a VPN that doesn’t lower your speed. The trick is finding a service that can keep the speed reduction as small as possible.

As far as speed, we found PIA to be fast enough, especially for Europe, U.S., and Canada-based servers.

On average, speeds on Windows are 25 Mbps, when you have a starting speed of 50 Mbps. iOS speeds were slightly lower, with Apple’s mobile devices seemingly impacted more when the VPN connection was on.

These speeds are enough to load Ultra HD movies from Netflix and other major streaming platforms, access fast torrenting, and experience high-quality VOIP.

Besides, PIA offers multiple protocols, including:

  • PPTP
  • IPSec/L2TP
  • SOCKS5
  • OpenVPN
  • WireGuard®

This gives you the flexibility you need to find the fastest server quickly.

Security and privacy

Private Internet Access is best-known for its no-log policy.

What does this mean for you?

PIA is located in the U.S., a country with strong surveillance laws where companies are forced to provide users’ data to the government when requested.

PIA’s no-log policy, however, states that it doesn’t keep any logs, which keeps your data secure.

So, even though PIA is based in a privacy-unfriendly country, it doesn’t keep your information, so you have nothing to worry about.

The service even provides you with a transparency report, where you’re shown how many times the government has demanded users’ data and how many logs were produced.

In terms of encryption, PIA offers AES-256, which is military-grade encryption. It also provides you with a kill switch and leak protection for all the protocols it offers.

In short, PIA offers a great level of security for casual users.

Device Compatibility

Private Internet Access VPN is compatible with the following operating systems:

  • Android
  • iOS
  • Linux
  • macOS
  • Windows

 PIA's device compatibility

It also provides native apps for a myriad of operating systems for both mobile and desktop, including:

  • Android
  • iOS
  • Linux
  • macOS
  • Windows

PIA offers a browser extension for the following browsers:

  • Google Chrome v48+
  • Firefox v57+
  • Opera v52+

You can use PIA with compatible devices, including Tomato and DD-WRT. Router support is extensive and includes:

  • Anonabox
  • FlashRouters
  • Sploitworks
  • DD-WRT
  • Tomato
  • PfSense

Torrenting

In the context of torrenting support, Private Internet Access allows you to torrent from any server location. Besides, you get access to unlimited bandwidth.

PIA doesn’t limit P2P traffic and comes with port forwarding features, which is great for fast torrenting.

How much does PIA cost?

PIA is one of the most popular VPN providers available, and one of the main reasons for this is its low pricing.

Private Internet Access offers three time-based paid plans:

  • Monthly — $9.95 with a 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Yearly — $3.33 with a 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Two Years — $2.69 with two months free and a 30-day money-back guarantee

PIA's pricing

Compared to other major VPN providers, PIA is pretty affordable.

Sadly, PIA doesn’t offer a free trial. It does, however, come with a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.

Pros and cons of using PIA

At this point, you already know the basics of Private Internet Access. Here’s a quick summary of everything we’ve covered so far:

Pros

  • 35,000+ servers in 74 countries
  • Up to 10 simultaneous connections
  • No traffic logs
  • Android and iPhone apps are superb
  • Great pricing
  • Great speeds for streaming and torrenting
  • Amazing security for casual users

Cons

  • No free trial, but does include a 30-day money-back guarantee
Get PrivateInternetAccess here

Six great alternatives to Private Internet Access in 2021

PIA is a great VPN for casual users, but the only way to know for sure whether it’s the right one for you is to compare it against popular alternatives.

To help you out, here are six great alternatives to Private Internet Access in 2021.

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is a widely-known VPN service provider. It offers a strong no-logging policy and solid leak protection.

Offering 3,000+ VPN server locations, ExpressVPN works great for streaming, torrenting, and browsing the web with maximum security.

ExpressVPN's homepage screenshot

Some of ExpressVPN’s top features include:

  • Multiple locations: Get access to over 160 VPN server locations in 94 countries.
  • IP masking: Keep your true server location hidden from cyber attackers.
  • Anonymous browsing: Get the highest level of anonymity while browsing the internet.
  • Great support: Get access to 24/7 live chat support and extra fast email responses
  • Split tunneling: Split your traffic between VPN connection and direct internet access

Express VPN Pricing

ExpressVPN offers three time-based paid plans for periods of one month, six months, and 12 months. Paid plans start at $12.95 per month.

When you buy a 12-month subscription, you save 35%.

To learn more about ExpressVPN, check out our full and comprehensive ExpressVPN review.

Get ExpressVPN here

2. Nord VPN

NordVPN is an award-winning VPN app widely known for its amazing customer service. It offers a smooth user experience and solid security features, including military-grade encryption, multiple server locations, and DoubleVPN.

NordVPN's homepage screenshot

NordVPN’s top features include:

  • Simultaneous connections: Connect up to six devices at the same time.
  • Uninterrupted streaming: Watch your favorite shows uninterruptedly
  • Dedicated IP: Never share your IP with other users again
  • IP masking: Mask your IP and hide your information anytime
  • Adblocker: Block ads and avoid malware

NordVPN Pricing

NordVPN offers three paid plans, which are monthly, yearly, and bi-yearly. Paid plans start at $11.95 per month.

When you purchase a two-year plan, you save 65%.

Also, every plan comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

To learn more about this VPN, check out our full NordVPN review.

Get NordVPN now

3. CyberGhost

CyberGhost is a solid VPN alternative suitable for entertainment purposes.

With more than 7,000 server locations, strong Wi-Fi protection, and seven simultaneous connections, CyberGhost is one of the best VPN solutions available on the market.

CyberGhost's homepage screenshot

CyberGhost’s top features include:

  • IP hiding: Hide your IP address in just a couple of seconds
  • Military-grade encryption: Enjoy 256-bit encryption and multiple VPN protocols at all times
  • NoSpy VPN servers: Get access to independently-operated servers based in Romania
  • Anti-censorship: Avoid geo-restrictions through powerful anti-censorship features
  • Global servers: Access over 7,000 server locations in 91 countries.

CyberGhost Pricing

CyberGhost offers four time-based paid plans: one month, one year, two years, and three years. Paid plans start at $12.99 per month.

Every plan comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee.

Also, when you buy a three-year plan, you get three months for free, saving 83%.

For a more detailed look at CyberGhost and all of its features, read our CyberGhost review.

Get CyberGhost here

4. Surfshark

Surfshark offers the perfect balance between functionality, reliability, and affordability with a mix of great pricing with robust security features.

The main focus of Surfshark is to provide you with a clean browsing experience with no ads or malware whatsoever.

Surfshark's homepage screenshot

Surfshark’s top features include:

  • Unlimited devices: Connect your account with unlimited devices
  • Whitelister: Allow specific domains and IP addresses to access your information
  • NoBorders mode: Get rid of geographical restrictions and access restrictive regions with ease
  • Camouflage mode: Make sure no one knows you’re using a VPN
  • Secure protocols: Browse the internet with IKEv2 over IPsec VPN protocol

Surfshark Pricing

Surfshark offers three different paid plans: one month, six months, and 24 months. Paid plans start at $12.95 per month.

Its 24-month plan takes 81% off the price.

Also, you get a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans.

To discover everything pertaining to Surfshark, check out our full Surfshark VPN review.

Get Surfshark here

5. HideMyAss

HideMyAss (also known as HMA) is a VPN app owned by Avast.

With over 189 streaming-optimized servers, speeds of 20 Gbps, unlimited bandwidth, and a dazzling brand personality, HideMyAss is one of the best VPN providers available.

HideMyAss' homepage screenshot

HideMyAss’ top features include:

  • Multiple devices: Connect up to five devices simultaneously
  • Smart kill switch: Turn off your internet connection automatically whenever your VPN drops
  • DNS leak protection: Protect your connection against IPv4, IPv6, and any other major DNS leaks
  • Automations: Build automations to turn your connection on or off based on specific triggers
  • DDoS protection: Protect yourself from DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks

HMA Pricing

HideMyAss offers three paid plans: one month, 12 months, and 36 months.

Paid plans start at $11.99 per month.

When you sign up for its 36-month plan, you save 75%.

To learn more about HideMyAss, read our HideMyAss review.

Visit HideMyAss

6. Zenmate

Zenmate is a Germany-based VPN company focused on providing the best customer experience.

Zenmate has over 45 million customers, making it one of the largest VPN players in the game. It also offers a great level of security, 79+ location servers, and a strict no-logs policy.

Zenmate's homepage screenshot

Zenmate’s top features include:

  • Anonymous VPN: Keep your information private through a Germany-based VPN.
  • Unblock streaming: Get access to restricted content in your country.
  • Live sports: Watch any sporting event, anytime
  • Kill switch: Turn off your internet connection every time your VPN fails
  • Locations: Connect to over 3,200 server locations in over 79 countries.

Zenmate Pricing

Zenmate offers three paid plans: one month, one year, and three years. Pricing starts at $10.99 per year.

When you buy a three-year subscription, you save 85%.

Also, each plan comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

To better familiarize yourself with this quality VPN, check out our full Zenmate review.

Get ZenMate here

Our final verdict

Private Internet Access focuses on the traditional VPN model and offers the right balance between security and functionality.

If you’re looking for an affordable VPN service that’s also robust and reliable, Private Internet Access might be the right choice.

If you’re looking for something different, though, take a look through the alternatives described above and see if any of them feel like a better fit.

Hopefully, you now have all the information you need to make an informed decision. And if you’re looking for more reviews like this, check out our comprehensive VPN reviews.