Private Internet Access, also known as PIA, is one of the cheapest VPN service providers out there. Does that mean that PIA is a VPN worth investing in?
A VPN is a software you can use to increase your online security and bypass geo-blocked content. The market is saturated with VPN providers, so it could get a little confusing picking one out on your own. In this review, I’ll be going over the pros and cons of Private Internet Access for your benefit. I’ll be looking at the features PIA offers when it comes to pricing, privacy, apps, server locations, online security, and refund policy.
Private Internet Access VPN Review – Is PIA Worth it?
Private Internet Access – VPN Overview
If you’re looking for a VPN that doesn’t cost much but still offers an extra level of security, then Private Internet Access may be the VPN for you. With its large server number, PIA always has a good connection up for grabs, even though the connections don’t really support very fast download speeds. As far as security and privacy, PIA uses all the standard VPN protocols and encryptions but fares badly with its location. PIA is located in the US, which may cause issues with its zero-log policy in the future. To date, though, PIA has not had problems with any data leaks.
PIA Pros and Cons
Malware protection and Adblocker (MACE)
Limited global coverage
No live support
Based in the US
7-day refund policy
Private Internet Access Review – Pricing and Accounts
Known as one of the cheapest VPN providers out there, PIA’s prices are hard to beat. They offer 3 different pricing plans: Monthly, Yearly, and Two Years. The Two Year subscription’s price goes as lost as $2.91 per month, paid in bulk ($69.95).
When it comes to pricing, PIA really hits the mark. You can even use your account on 5 devices simultaneously, making it a great offer for such a low price.
PIA Payment Options
Here is where it gets creative.
Even with how you pay for the subscription, PIA goes the extra miles to ensure that your payment is also confidential. Other than the typical credit card/ debit card payments (Visa, MasterCard, Amex, Discover, and JCB) Private Internet Access also accepts payment by:
Bitcoin and BitcoinCash
Private Internet Access Gift Card
Trading in any Gift Card for VPN access
That last point is what I wanted to discuss the most. Instead of paying for PIA with a credit card that can be traced back to you, you can simply trade the remaining balance on any major brand gift card for PIA access. Examples of major brands would be Target, Starbucks, Best Buy, and Walmart. Your remaining gift card balance will be traded off in days with PIA access:
How’s that for anonymity?
Private Internet Access – Servers and Locations
PIA has over 3400 servers under its disposal. The problem here is that the servers are located across 33 countries only. Unlike other VPN providers, Private Internet Access hasn’t really gone above and beyond in making sure its users have global server coverage. However, the large number of servers found in the most sought-after countries guarantee a smooth connection.
In other words, while you’ll find no servers in Russia, China, parts of the Middle East, and Africa, you will find stability in connecting to any of the servers PIA has to offer. When you’re looking for a server that geo-blocks your content, all the major countries are available.
For those of you that know anything about internet security laws, you know that having a VPN in the US is tricky. On one hand, PIA does not keep logs. As far as I can tell, it’s never had a problem with leaking data before, and its zero log policy does hold true. Here’s where it could get a little complicated though…The US government can impose a gag order on PIA since it’s located on US property. What this means is that the US government can force PIA to start collecting data on its users without even telling them (that’s why it’s called a gag order).
Again, so far, there have not been any reports on PIA leaking data in any way, shape, or form. While this is all a possibility, it isn’t necessarily a reality.
Now that this has been dealt with, let’s move on to what PIA really can offer you:
3 VPN protocols: OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec, and PPTP
IPv6 and DNS leak protection
A built-in Kill Switch
128-bit and 256-bit AES encryptions
PIA – Clients and Apps
Similar to most other VPNs, PIA supports the most used operating systems and devices. PIA has an app for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android users. The full device/OS supported list for PIA is:
Windows 7, 8, and 10
Mac OS (10.10 onwards)
Ubuntu (12.04 onwards)
Linux: Mint, Arch, Debian
iOS ( 8 onwards)
Android (4.0 onwards)
Chrome extension (v48 onwards)
DD-WRT (2011 Big/Mega Builds onwards)
Tomato (1.28 onwards)
PfSense (2.0 onwards)
Private Internet Access – Speed and Support
On average, it takes 3 to 4 seconds to connect to one of PIA’s servers, however, the internet speed after connection didn’t fare too brilliantly. After testing out 4 different servers, here’s what we found:
Download Speed Reductions:
39.7% in the US
6.35% in the UK
6.69% in Italy
37.79% in India
Upload Speed Reductions:
20,27% in the US
16.21% in the UK
16.21% in Italy
38.73% in India
PIA obviously doesn’t live it to its more expensive counterparts with the internet speed. Here, you’re going to have to decide for yourself if compromising your speed is worth the lower subscription rates.
Private Internet Access’s customer support also failed in comparison with other VPNs. While PIA’s customer support team do their best to solve every support ticket that comes through, PIA doesn’t offer a live chat option. The only way to get in contact with the customer support team is via email, which can get a little annoying if you’re facing an urgent problem.
Private Internet Access has developed its own version of a built-in “ad-blocker”, to state things simply. According to PIA, MACE “returns IP addresses of unwanted domain names as an address that’s not routable on the public internet”. While that doesn’t sound too understandable for anyone who isn’t in the world of IT, they do offer up a solid explanation for what MACE does. To put it simply, it’s a kickass ad/track blocker, which is a built-in extra level of security.
Private Internet Access – The Verdict
While Private Internet Access might not seem like the best VPN out there, and it isn’t, I still think it’s a good VPN to get you started with. It’s a cheap option that does offer better privacy online, which is technically what you want out of a VPN. The server coverage might end up being a bit of a problem, as PIA doesn’t have servers all over the world, but it does cover the major countries and cities needed. In the end, if you want to subscribe to a good VPN for cheap, Private Internet Access might be the choice for you.
A reader, writer, and avid internet user. Hiba has spent the better part of her adult life looking for ways to have a safer and more user-friendly online experience, all while praising the uses of VPN connections to anyone who would listen.