- Features: ★★★★☆ 4/5
- Streaming: ★★★★☆ 4/5
- Browser Extension: ★★★★★ 5/5
- Ease of Use: ★★★★★ 5/5
- Pricing: ★★★★★ 5/5
- Customer Satisfaction: ★★★★★ 5/5
April 29, 2022
- Features: ★★★★☆ 4/5
- Streaming: ★★★★☆ 4/5
- Browser Extension: ★★★★★ 5/5
- Ease of Use: ★★★★★ 5/5
- Pricing: ★★★★★ 5/5
- Customer Satisfaction: ★★★★★ 5/5
Highly privacy-oriented with a reliable kill switch and no-logs policy
- Use on up to 10 different devices with 10 simultaneous connections on 1 account
- Global VPN coverage with almost 30,000 servers across 83 countries
- Feature-rich and highly configurable apps on all devices
- Highly privacy-oriented with a reliable kill switch and no-logs policy
- Under the Five Eyes alliance jurisdiction
- No independent third-party audits
- Doesn’t provide the most advanced security or antivirus features
As we nowadays spend a significant portion of our lives online, this creates very real concerns around privacy and security. What’s more, although we can all access the internet as such, access to content is often blocked based on your geographic location. If these are concerns for you as well, you need a reliable VPN like the one we’ll cover in this Private Internet Access review. We’ll analyze this popular VPN based on:
- Ease of use
- Customer support
- And, FAQs
What Is PIA VPN and How Does It Work?
Private Internet Access (or, PIA) is a personal VPN service whose #1 mission is to enhance your digital privacy and online freedom by protecting your personal identity, geographic location, and internet traffic. First launched in 2010, in 2019 the VPN tool was acquired by Kape Technologies, which owns other VPNs as well, including Cyberghost, Intego, Webselenese and Restoro. PIA makes a big deal about transparency, backing this up through its open-source software.
As you might know, a VPN works by routing your traffic through various servers using an encrypted connection. By doing this, it can change your IP so it can’t be traced back to your physical location or identity. Many people use VPNs like PIA for privacy from hackers as well as the prying eyes of the government.
However, in this PIA VPN review, we’ll also look at more everyday uses.
For example, like most VPNs today, PIA allows you to choose a server from a specific location so it looks like that’s the location you’re connecting from. VPN users can use this feature to get around geo-restrictions, such as region-specific streaming libraries or services that are only available in certain countries.
With affordable plans and easy-to-use apps, PIA is aimed at everyday consumers. Today, PIA is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android, as well as various Smart TVs and gaming consoles. With nearly 30,000 servers across the globe, PIA has one of the largest infrastructures of any VPN provider.
The first phrase that came to mind during our PIA review was “simple, yet effective,” as all its apps have seemingly straightforward interfaces without much going on. However, when you start digging, you’ll see there are plenty of settings and options for advanced users to configure the VPN exactly to their needs.
This makes PIA somewhat unique, as it caters to both casual and power users. Unlike many other VPN services, most of the same features available on the desktop programs are also available on mobile apps. So, you don’t have to make do with a diminished experience.
While it does lack some depth when it comes to security features, it makes up for it in terms of configurability. You can also add on antivirus capabilities or a dedicated IP at extra cost, which gives you some more utility.
According to PIA reviews, privacy is one of its users’ main concerns, as online privacy is one of the main reasons people use VPNs in general. And, since Private Internet Access claims to be a privacy-first VPN, we expect a lot from this VPN in this area.
First of all, PIA has a strict no-logs policy, which means it doesn’t track any of your usage or activity data. PIA also automatically blocks ads, trackers, and malware, which prevents targeted ads and other manipulative online business practices.
Although PIA is located in the US, which is a Five Eyes alliance country, they claim this isn’t a privacy issue because they don’t track any identifying information or usage data that can be traced back to you. However, we’d be lying if we said this didn’t raise eyebrows for our VPN PIA review.
To be fair, PIA has argued this position multiple times in court, so it does seem they can be taken by their word when it comes to not logging any compromising data.
Private Internet Access does have some pretty impressive infrastructure—their NextGen servers optimized for performance with up to 10 Gbps connection speeds are located in over 83 different countries across the globe.
On top of that, PIA uses the OpenVPN and WireGuard® protocols, which are two of the fastest open-source VPN protocols around.
In fact, PIA claims to be the fastest VPN in the world, which doesn’t seem to be an empty boast according to a number of online publications and expert PIA VPN reviews.
However, PIA does optimize for performance in the US, with the largest share of its servers concentrated there.
There are a number of PIA network features that make it an excellent choice for streaming.
Because of its strong global presence, you can choose servers from nearly any country to unlock region-specific libraries on sites like Netflix. And, because you get a dedicated IP, you’re less likely to be flagged as a suspicious connection or bot.
PIA seems quite effective at bypassing geo-restrictions for unblocking Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, and BBC iPlayer libraries.
If you look at a Private Internet Access VPN speed review, you’ll see its performance is above average as well. With up to 10 Gbps connection speeds, it’s one of the fastest VPNs, meaning you won’t have any buffering or loading issues. As it will barely slow down your normal connection speed (depending on the server location you select), you should be able to stream in HD with no problems.
As a final point of convenience, the split tunneling feature allows you to stream shows for a specific location while carrying out other browsing activities like normal.
As the cherry on top, PIA also doesn’t track bandwidth usage, so you can stream to your heart’s desire without any limits.
If you’re a torrent user, this is the part of the Private Internet Access VPN service review you want to pay attention to.
First of all, PIA has no issues or restrictions when it comes to using the VPN for torrenting. Many of the same features that make it a good option for streaming apply here as well, such as browsing privacy and zero traceability, fast network speeds, and no bandwidth limitations.
You can use the UDP or AES-128 encryption for improved privacy and security while torrenting or SOCKS5 for faster speeds.
The majority of users will likely use PIA via the Windows app. If that’s the case for you, the good news is that the Windows desktop app is extremely easy to download and use. It’s also a feature-rich VPN with tons of settings to configure your VPN connection.
As you’ll see from most Private Internet Access VPN reviews, usability is one of its best features.
No special configuration is required during the installation process. As soon as you run the app, you’ll see a big “Connect” button to immediately establish a connection with the nearest server. It also comes in the dark theme by default.
As the flagship app, most PIA features present on the PC version may not be available on its other apps. You can freely choose between different secure protocols to use, such as OpenVPN or WireGuard, or UDP or TCP, not to mention changing your encryption level, enabling split tunneling, etc.
The app also has an extensive knowledge base you can refer to if you’re facing any issues.
Multi-device and platform support is one of the key benefits we found during our Private Internet Access VPN review. And, PIA’s Android app is one of its most popular.
Just like the desktop app, the Android app is exceptionally easy to install and use. The good news is that you can use your PIA account on up to 10 different devices, so you can browse securely and privately on all your mobile devices as well as your desktop.
Like the Windows app, you’ll immediately be greeted with a big on/off button, and the rest of the interface is similarly clean and organized with plenty of helpful and user-friendly graphics. Compared to some other VPN mobile apps, PIA’s Android app offers a really polished user experience.
As expected, some features are missing by default, such as add tracking. However, you can enable MACE ad and tracker blocking by sideloading an API—although you should always be careful when sideloading software on Android, as it does entail some risk. That being said, it’s a pretty popular workaround according to PIA VPN reviews.
Other than that, it has all the important features, such as split tunneling, kill switch, and traffic obfuscation. However, there’s no multi-hop as of yet. The app has an excellent 4.5-star rating.
PIA has also released a macOS version of its VPN that comes with all the same features as the Windows app and the same app-like interface. You can use split-tunneling, switch VPN protocols, enable/disable the kill switch, and use the DNS-based ad blocker MACE.
Last, but not least, PIA is also available as an iOS app on Apple mobile devices.
Like the Android app, you can still use all the most important features. The iOS interface is arguably even cleaner and more polished than the Android version, and it even supports Siri shortcuts.
It’s no surprise that, like its Android counterpart, PIA reviews on the Apple App Store are really high at 4.7.
Once again, although it’s rare to have so many features and so much configurability from a mobile VPN app, PIA pulls it off.
Aside from downloading and installing apps, you can also use PIA as a browser extension for Chrome, Opera, or Firefox. Apart from establishing VPN connections without the software, these browser extensions come with even more features specifically aimed at making internet browsing safer and more private.
So, how is PIA VPN so safe when used as a browser extension?
Well, for example, it blocks access to your webcam or microphone by unauthorized parties and so they can’t be used to spy on you. There are also extra tools, such as disabling trackers and cookies, forcing HTTPS, blocking WebRTC detection, etc.
You can even configure certain websites to bypass the VPN connection for more control over your region-based access, or even set a default location for each individual website.
Ease of Use
In the next part of this PIA VPN review, we wanted to see how user-friendly the experience is, especially if you’re just getting started. Unfortunately, PIA doesn’t offer a free VPN version, so you’ll have to buy it to test it yourself, but there’s always the “no questions asked” money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with it.
So, first of all, head over to the PIA website and click any of the “Get PIA” buttons:
Choose one of the pricing plans:
On the next page, you can add on extras such as Antivirus by PIA or a dedicated IP address. Review your order and complete your purchase using any of the available payment options:
PIA even recommends creating a burner email account and paying with cryptocurrency if you’re especially concerned with privacy and being untraceable. You’ll then be given the option to create an account and download the Windows software.
As we pointed out earlier in this review of PIA VPN, it’s also available on Linux, macOS, Android, iOS, consoles, and Smart TVs. With any subscription, you can download and use PIA on up to 10 devices, and even use 10 VPN connections simultaneously.
In general, PIAs interface is extremely user-friendly, and very minimal and clean, with the exception of the Android app to some degree. This is evident from the high ratings the mobile app has on the official Google and Apple app stores.
With most apps, you’ll immediately see a big on/off button to establish or terminate a VPN connection. All apps also allow you to switch between light or dark mode.
PIA does give the option to download its apps and extensions without buying a subscription or registering an account, but you’ll have to log in to actually use any of the features, so it’s not exactly a free trial.
Next up in our Private Internet Access VPN review, let’s look at how much this service will cost you:
|6-month plan||$7.50/month ($45 every 6 months)|
|2-year plan||$2.19/month ($56.94 for the first 2 years and yearly thereafter)|
As you can see, the first bit of good news is that PIA doesn’t limit any features to certain plan holders. All PIA users get full access to the entire range of safety, privacy, and security controls. The choice mostly comes down to how long you feel comfortable committing to PIA, especially since the long-term discounts are so significant.
If you’re wondering “is pia VPN safe?”, one thing that might ease your mind is that all plans are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
In terms of the cost, PIA’s month-to-month plan is actually priced in line with the market average for consumer VPN services. However, its long-term subscriptions tend to be cheaper than most competitors.
First of all, PIA offers a comprehensive knowledge base and FAQ that you can use to troubleshoot any issues, and there’s also a large and active community you can seek assistance from on the official forum. However, for one-on-one technical or account support, you can open a ticket. Although reviews for VPNs are generally spotty, Private Internet Access VPN reviews tend to be highly positive, giving it a 4.6 rating on TrustPilot.
Having checked out its features and pricing, let’s see how PIA compares to some of its competitors:
|PIA vs ExpressVPN
For a full ExpressVPN review, click here.
|Private Internet Access is more affordable than ExpressVPN.||ExpressVPN has better overall speeds and more server locations.||ExpressVPN’s huge number of servers and fast speeds make it ideal for streaming.|
|PIA vs NordVPN
For a full NordVPN review, click here.
|PIA allows torrenting on all its servers, not just some like NordVPN.||Unlike PIA, NordVPN is outside the Five Eyes alliance jurisdiction.||NordVPN is one of the most feature-rich and secure VPNs in the world.|
|PIA vs Surfshark
For a full Surfshark review, click here.
|PIA has more server locations across more countries.||Surfshark offers better high-speed connections and more security options.||Surfshark is great for secure online browsing, including antivirus capabilities.|
So, according to our PIA VPN review for 2022, how does it stack up to the competition?
When comparing PIA with most competitors, it’s usually a case of you win some you lose some. While it’s hard to make general claims, PIA is definitely one of the more affordably priced popular VPN services around, and highly supportive of its users using P2P and torrenting networks.
However, for some users for whom privacy is a huge issue, it might be a concern that PIA is based within the Five Eyes alliance’s jurisdiction. And, many of their competitors offer better security and performance.
That being said, PIA’s vast network of servers across a huge number of countries makes it an excellent choice for unblocking geo-blocked content.
Private Internet Access Review: Conclusion
Private Internet Access is a simple, yet effective VPN for privacy-concerned individuals on a budget. If you’re into P2P file-sharing or streaming your favorite shows online, there are a few more accommodating options, and the best part is that you can enjoy the same privacy and protection across all your devices with up to 10 simultaneous connections.
According to our PIA review, this budget-friendly VPN combines a user-friendly design, fast speeds, and extensive global coverage, making it hard to beat in terms of value for money.
Yes, according to a number of PIA users and expert testers, PIA works well for streaming Netflix, as it can be used to unlock country-specific libraries and circumvent certain geo-restrictions.
Yes, all things considered. First of all, PIA has a huge network of servers across 83 countries, which makes it ideal for bypassing geo-restrictions. Because you get a dedicated IP, it’s less likely your anonymous connection will be flagged as suspicious. However, although it’s fast, it’s not the fastest, so PIA is not the single best streaming VPN.
Overall, yes. For the same reasons mentioned in our Private Internet Access review that make it good for streaming, PIA is also good for gaming. The app is even available on various consoles such as PlayStation and Xbox, and it’s great for avoiding your ISP throttling when gaming online.