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Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN review

Beginner-friendly VPN, with some expert-level tweaking options.

(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

Private Internet Access is a fairly priced VPN platform that provides all the necessities and more. It will let you hide your true identity behind its servers, share large files via torrenting clients, view the coveted Netflix content, and even play around with some advanced features and extras.

Pros

  • High configurability
  • Plenty of advanced features
  • Netflix unblocking

Cons

  • No iPlayer support

Private Internet Access (also called PIA) is an outstanding VPN provider owned by Private Internet, the same company who is also the proud owner of other celebrated platforms like ZenMate and CyberGhost.

It features a solid network of P2P-friendly servers that includes over 2,730 units scattered across 47 countries, native clients for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux, browser extensions for Chrome, Opera, and Firefox, as well as support for installation on additional platforms, including routers. Once you set it up, you’ll be able to run it on as many as 10 devices at the same time, which is quite a lot in this business.

(Image credit: Future)

You’ll also get access to various bonus features such as a blocker of malicious URLs, ads, and trackers called MACE, as well as the SOCKS5 proxy. Furthermore, there are some new and interesting extras like a secure private browser for iOS, the Shadowsocks support for getting you connected in regions that actively block VPNs, and the Snooze option to temporarily disconnect the VPN.

Plans & pricing

As usual, the subscription plans begin with the most expensive option (yet not among the most expensive in the industry) - the monthly one at $9.95. Going for the 6-month option will reduce the price to an equivalent of $5.99/month, while paying for an entire year will bring down the price further, to only $3.33/month, making it one of the most attractive VPN plans in terms of price. The annual subscription now also comes with two additional months for free, which means its current price is only $2.85/month.

Customers can make their purchase using various methods, including credit cards, PayPal, AmazonPay, Mint, Bitcoin, gift cards, and more.

A free trial is not an option with PIA, but there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee to put your mind at ease if you realise you don’t like what you’re getting after you’ve already paid. There’s another interesting detail, that we haven’t noticed with the competition - if you purchase another account after already being issued a refund, you can ask for another refund, as long as more than three months have passed since the last one.

(Image credit: Future)

Privacy & logging 

PIA relies on the super-secure OpenVPN protocol and lots of other security toolkits to protect your privacy on desktop and mobile platforms. It not only supports various encryption models (AES-128, AES-256, CBC, GSM), but it also allows you to decide yourself which one you want to use, or turn it off completely for the sake of higher speeds. The configurability doesn’t end there, by far. 

(Image credit: Future)

Users can also set which data authentication and handshake methods they’d like to use - RSA-2048 or RSA-4096, which connection type they prefer, as well as which local and remote ports they want. All the provider’s apps now also include WireGuard protocol support. 

PIA uses its own DNS to successfully prevent DNS leaks. And guess what? This can be customised as well, at least on the Windows app, where you have a choice to either use your default DNS or any custom DNS you’d prefer. As usual, a kill switch is there as a safety measure on both desktop and mobile platforms, preventing any data leaks by disabling your entire Internet access if the VPN connection suffers an interruption. 

(Image credit: Future)

The browser extensions don’t lack privacy options on their own  - featuring blocking of third-party cookies and location access, for instance. 

As for its no-logs policy, PIA claims to be the only truly verified no-log VPN platform, referring to the situations in which it was served with subpoenas to hand over users’ account information, but it couldn’t comply and the only data it delivered was the general location of the server IP addresses. 

This means no user-specific information was handed over to the authorities. In addition to a history of no-logging practices, PIA also issues a Transparency Report every six months, listing all the requests for user data it received and subsequently relinquished (which, you guessed right, is none).

While this is persuasive enough for many, we’d still like to see PIA following in the footsteps of some of the competitors that opened their doors to independent outside auditors, who checked their services in detail and issued a report on their observations. That said, the vendor has made an announcement that it was working on doing exactly this.

(Image credit: Future)

VOD & torrents 

One of the most sought-after features of a VPN is access to popular streaming services like Netflix which often introduce blocks on viewership in certain locations, for various reasons. PIA not only provides access to the US content on Netflix, but also unblocks several other localised Netflix versions, including those available only in Australia, Japan, and Canada. However, BBC iPlayer is a whole different story, and you won’t have much luck accessing it with this VPN provider.

PIA excels in facilitating the sharing of large files via P2P or torrenting clients. All of its servers are P2P-optimised and will get you unrestricted torrenting from whichever location you want. Torrenting may even be assisted with the use of PIA’s port forwarding capabilities which redirects incoming connections to bypass the NAT firewall and potentially help increase torrenting speeds.

Support

Should you require any assistance with the platform’s use, installation, and such, PIA’s Support Portal is at your disposal, providing articles about a wide array of issues you might encounter and how to deal with them.

If the support section lacks the specific information you need, you can contact the always available customer support. They can be reached via live chat and email.

(Image credit: Future)

Final verdict 

While Private Internet Access does have a few pain points, it does deliver in almost everything else - a capable and secure privacy platform packed with various expert-level features, Netflix-unblocking abilities, and access to a solid amount of P2P-friendly servers.

The Verdict
4.25

out of 5

Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN review

Private Internet Access is a fairly priced VPN platform that provides all the necessities and more. It will let you hide your true identity behind its servers, share large files via torrenting clients, view the coveted Netflix content, and even play around with some advanced features and extras.