Private Internet Access (PIA)
Verdict: Private Internet Access (PIA) is one of the leading VPN service providers, specializing in encrypted tunnels with several levels of security, offering an affordable alternative to pricey premium VPNs. It is fast and safe enough, allowing to unblock Netflix USA and download torrents on all the servers. Besides, it follows the no-logs policy.
The Private Internet Access VPN doesn’t offer such rarely used functions as dedicated IP or Tor over VPN. The global speeds tend to slow down on large distances, therefore PIA probably won’t cope with some regions of major streaming services. But PIA is a reliable tool that ensures decent P2P privacy, secure web surfing, and torrenting.
Many users feel worried because the location of PIA is not the best for the legislation (in the USA). Besides, they rent some servers and use virtual servers on the territories with censorship (Hong Kong). Moreover, no independent audit is carried out.
However, their open protocol Wire Guard is regularly tested by volunteers. The results of a couple of the loud cases related to the suspicion about the explosion preparations worked well for the company’s reputation. It couldn’t provide any materials on the case, because they just didn’t exist.
Private Internet Access, previously a London Trust Media subsidiary, is an American software developing company (Denver, Colorado), which in 2009 created a VPN under the same name. It has become one of the most popular VPNs on the market from the moment it was released in 2010.
Now Private Internet Access (known as PIA) is a VPN provider owned by Private Internet (before known as KAPE) along with CyberGhost and ZenMate, but these are separate projects.
PIA has more than 29000 servers in 77 countries and 999 regions, ensuring great distribution of servers for connection anywhere in the world. When you have a look at the list of servers’ network, you will see that in some countries you can choose from several locations. When you connect for the first time, you can choose the fastest server.
However, some Private Internet Access reviews claim that the network is not that broad in more isolated parts of the world having only a few servers in the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, Brazil, and Africa. In countries with strict censorship, like China or UAE, you can use several virtual servers, which are located near these countries.
You can see the latency of every server, and you can add servers to your favorites, to connect to them easily next time. Servers can be sorted by alphabet, or by ping time. Moreover, you can find the needed server by search line. While comparing PIA vs ExpressVPN I found out that it is impossible to connect the server using an IP-address, which can be disappointing for some users.
Clients applications deserve special note in this Private Internet Access review as they are simple, structured, and fancy-designed, especially the dark theme. Users can adjust the layout of their apps, maximize for additional settings, reorder or remove interface elements. Generally, it is a small window with the Connect button and minimal information, which may be docked or hidden.
PIA is one of the VPNs for Linux, offering a full-featured app with graphic UI instead of a command line, a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. You can install PIA practically on any platform/ device thanks to the accessible configuration files OpenVPN and open Android APK file, which opens many opportunities.
Lightweight applications work great on low-power devices. Install PIA via OpenVPN on your router to cover multiple simultaneous connections without limitations. PIA supports the majority of router firmware with detailed instructions to let you connect an unlimited number of devices, smart TVs, game consoles.
PIA proudly offers some interesting features, apart from a kill switch or partly-encrypted browser. Traditional kill switch disables your connection to protect your data and IP-address from disclosing in case of an unexpected VPN connection loss.
“Auto” by default blocks the Internet connection if VPN is not working, while you are connected. “Always” is a step forward, which blocks all Internet traffic, if you are not connected through VPN – highly recommended in high-risk countries.
MACE, a complex ad blocker protects you from pop-up windows, malicious programs, and cross-site trackers. Usual ad trackers block a request to the ad server or track it using the blacklist. Instead of blocking, MACE forwards the request of DNS to your local IP address.
The process of blocking doesn’t take much time, as MACE doesn’t need a cross-link to the blacklist before it blocks the request. As there are no permitted sites, neutral pop-up information may be blocked too.
Although on the Private Internet Access website you won’t find information that the company supports torrents or has servers optimized for them, they claim to support P2P. Still, PIA is one of the top VPNs for torrenting and it doesn’t restrict using torrents, so people consider it a reliable choice for file exchange.
Applications have several functions, which may be useful for P2P file sharing. They don’t control all the connections, including peer-to-peer file sharing. You can take advantage of any torrent client you like, given your account isn’t blocked, and the connection isn’t limited.
Port forwarding allows to bypass NAT firewalls and to connect to more peers in torrents. Split tunneling allows tunneling Internet traffic of the torrent application through VPN, using a basic direct connection for other activities and applications. This function is great to protect your browser during the online back-up at a full speed.
There is a variety of security options and network settings, offered by the VPN by default. It is highly recommended to use the maximum encryption settings to get the highest level of security even at the cost of performance.
By default, the program uses OpenVPN UDP, but it is also possible to select Wireguard, which uses an integrated encryption package, as opposed to OpenVPN, not switching between transport protocols and encryption algorithms.
You can choose the level of encryption for data authentication and a handshake - DNS systems to protect and exchange data encryption keys. They help a device and a server to check the authenticity of connection and transferred data. The default settings are hard to break, though you can double the size of the authentication key using 256-bit encryption.
The remote port settings are useful if the network administrator blocked the traffic on a standard OpenVPN port, as you may select another one. You can adjust the proxy-server to reroute the traffic through another place. It is like a two-leap connection, but without the second level of encryption. Use the SOCKS5 protocol, but remember that PIA has several proxy Shadowsocks.
It is very convenient that PIA has an integrated level of service with three different subscription plans, not raising the cost of additional features. If a monthly subscription of $ 9,95 seems overpriced for you, the annual subscription with $ 3,33 / month is a reasonable offer.
A two-year plan is the most cost-effective variant, and at the time of writing this Private Internet Access VPN review, it comes with two additional free months, and the monthly fee of $ 2,69 is nearly the most affordable on the VPN market (you will also get a private browser Boxcryptor as a gift).
When registering, you get your personal account information, not related to your e-mail. Every subscription plan has a 30-day money-back guarantee without any risk. PIA accepts several payment methods, including credit cards, PayPal, Amazon Pay, and some anonymous cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, Zcash, and Ethereum. You may even use gift certificates from Starbucks, Walmart, Best Buy to stay fully anonymous.