Private Internet Access VPN 2021 Review
Reviews score: Very good
Private Internet Access offers a whole lot of privacy for a small amount of money. It’s extremely fast, secure, unblocks Netflix USA, allows torrenting, and has a clear no-logs policy. Making it a great VPN for those looking for an economical alternative to NordVPN and CyberGhost.
- Extremely fast: Private Internet Access is one of the fastest VPN we’ve ever tested.
- All security features you need: Private Internet Access uses OpenVPN, AES-256, DNS Leak Blocking, a Kill Switch, WebRTC Blocking and much more. It’s very secure.
- No Logs: Private Internet Access does not track what you do online.
- Servers in 46 countries: It offers 3400 servers in 46 countries.
- Works with all devices: Private Internet Access offers apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux, and has browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera.
- Netflix USA & Germany: Although it unblocks Netflix in the USA and Germany, it does not work with any other Netflix libraries.
- Allows torrenting (P2P).
- Limited streaming options: Private Internet Access does not work with Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO, Kodi, or Sky. It only works with Netflix USA and Germany, and BBC iPlayer.
- Best deal: $ 2.85 / month
- Refund Policy: 30 days
- Customer Support: 24/7 Live chat
- Devices per account: 10
- Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux
- Works with US Netflix: Yes
- Works with Torrents: Yes
- Works in China: No
- Speed: 90 Mbps
- Servers in: 46 countries
- Server count: 3292
- IP Addresses: 3292
- Jurisdiction: USA
- Data leaks: None
- Logging policy: No logs
Privacy and Security
PIA has the right features available to help you achieve full online anonymity. It’s significantly safer to use than others, despite it being a US-based VPN. All modern VPN and encryption protocols are available in a simple-to-use interface.
PIA is very transparent about its logging policies and even goes so far as to release regular reports. These are reassuring and allow users to see how many data requests the company has received from all the government agencies.
What separates PIA from many other VPNs is the amount of verifiable information that you can dig up about its logging practices. PIA states that it doesn’t collect anything aside from email addresses and payment details. This allows for maximum anonymity when using third-party online payment services.
It’s one of the few VPN service providers that had their servers seized by Russian authorities and subpoenaed by the US federal government and still managed to protect user identities. It’s reassuring that there are actual court cases that anyone can look up online that demonstrate PIA’s commitment in this regard.
PIA falls under the Five Eyes intelligence alliance. It is a US-based VPN provider, which means that all data collected can be subpoenaed at any time and shared between the US, the UK, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada.
Because it falls under this jurisdiction, PIA may not sound like the ideal choice for anyone that wants to remain anonymous in their online activities. However, due to the clear no-logging policy, it is safe to use.
PIA offers two types of encryption in AES-128 and AES-256. Both are available within the client although you will have to set it to AES-256 manually if you want to.
The VPN also offers multiple security protocols, such as IKEv2, L2TP, OpenVPN, and WireGuard. WireGuard is a newer protocol mainly developed for boosting download speeds. However, it’s a bit too new and not as proven as OpenVPN, which remains the gold standard.
When using the main PIA desktop client, we didn’t manage to find any DNS leaks, or IPv6 leaks, or even WebRTC leaks.
However, there have been some WebRTC leaks when using PIA browser extensions. Due to its private DNS servers and strict DNS protection protocols, all DNS requests are processed by PIA rather than the internet service providers.
Therefore, there’s a rather low risk of data leaks when using PIA. At least as far as the desktop client is concerned.
Extra Security Features
Although PIA may look like a lightweight app on the surface, it does have robust security features. The VPN kill switch is one of the most important, as is the split tunneling and port forwarding features.
The built-in tracking protection and malware prevention features are also important when browsing or when using torrent clients.
But what’s perhaps most important is the customization factor. PIA allows you more control over the security protocols and the level of encryption. For example, you can use the default RSA-2048 authentication algorithm.
That said, you can also use stronger authentication crypto keys such as RSA-4096. It’s just a matter of manually selecting a different protocol. There’s of course the relationship between higher levels of security and app performance.
PIA has inconsistent speed test results. It excels at local and short-distance connections but falls short on an international scale. That said, it doesn’t have high latency issues.
Therefore, it is a stable VPN for a variety of online applications. It’s also worth mentioning that it lists over 3,000 IP addresses spread across 44 countries and 64 cities.
Local Speed Tests
We were testing from Europe on a base of connection of 90 – 100 Mbps.
Local speed tests conducted within Europe show some very impressive results. From an average speed of 90Mbps, going through PIA only resulted in a 3 to 4Mbps drop.
The ping saw a marginal increase, not enough to affect online gaming experience.
This makes PIA very fast for local or short-range connections, which is especially useful for gaming, HD and 4K streaming, and P2P filesharing.
Global Speed Tests
Using PIA on long-distance connections was in line with most VPN. The distance had a fairly significant impact on download and upload speeds, as well as latency.
For example, connecting from Europe to the US, or vice versa, may see a 60% drop in download speed Not as much for upload speeds though.
It gets worse if you’re trying to connect to Australia or Singapore, where the download speed can go down as much as 60% and 70%.
That said, with high initial download speeds, these drops may not be enough to hinder your ability to stream HD movies and such. But it may be too much for 4K streaming services.
PIA is a great VPN if you want to unlock Netflix US, Netflix Germany, and BBC iPlayer. However, unlike other Netflix-friendly VPNs, this app doesn’t provide access to other popular Netflix libraries such as Australia, the UK, or Japan.
Unblocking other streaming platforms such as Hulu, HBO Go, Sky, or Prime Video hasn’t been too reliable. But it does seem to work with the Amazon Fire TV stick. It’s also worth mentioning that PIA doesn’t feature any streaming optimized servers. Any US or UK server should work just as well for Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
That said, it’s not the best overall streaming VPN due to its focus on only two platforms and specific geographical libraries.
Torrenting is a breeze when using PIA. The app provides unlimited bandwidth, port-forwarding, and the no-logging policy is great for data protection. Furthermore, P2P filesharing is allowed and the app is compatible with popular torrent clients such as uTorrent, Deluge, and BitTorrent.
What makes it even better, in our opinion, is the built-in ad blocker in the PIA client. This should prevent malware infection and any trackers from gathering data. Both can be serious possibilities with modern torrent clients.
Of course, PIA also offers a kill switch feature, should your connection to a server be severed at any point.
While PIA may be great at bypassing some geographical restrictions it’s not yet the best tool for bypassing serious censorships. Interestingly enough, PIA does enjoy a small amount of success with Chinese users. However, most reports and tests show that the app performs inconsistently.
Most of this has to do with the lack of obfuscation tools for disguising VPN traffic. However, PIA works well in other censored regions such as Russian and the UAE, and maybe even Turkey.
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