© 2022 CyberNews - Latest tech news,
product reviews, and analyses.

If you purchase via links on our site, we may receive affiliate commissions.

Private Internet Access VPN review

14

Private Internet Access (PIA) is a good online security tool. It offers additional features like browser extensions and ad blocking.

But despite these obvious benefits, some things still raise concerns. PIA is not the fastest VPN out there, lagging behind some other major providers, and it's not the best for streaming either, as it can't access several major streaming platforms. Additionally, the VPN's parent company, Kape Technologies (also owning ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, and Zenmate VPN) has several publications pointing out its alleged past connections with malware distribution.

But are any of these things worth worrying about, and do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks? With plenty of more capable VPN options like NordVPN out there, is there something interesting that PIA can offer you?

All things considered, we need to know whether PIA is actually a good VPN option in 2022. Does it actually work with Netflix and other major streaming platforms, aand does it grant you complete online privacy and anonymity? In this Private Internet Access VPN review, we'll take a closer look at what it offers and what it actually delivers. Let's do our research and find some answers.

With all things considered, we need to know whether PIA actually a good VPN option. Can it actually work with Netflix and other major streaming platforms, as well as grant you complete online privacy and anonymity? In this Private Internet Access VPN review, we'll take a closer look at what PIA VPN offers and what it actually delivers. Let's do our research and find some answers.

Best alternative to Private Internet Access
NordVPN is one of the best VPNs on the market with high speeds, unbreakable encryption, and an independently-audited no-logs policy.
cybernews® score
4.9 /5

Private Internet Access pros & cons

Is PIA good for streaming?

PlatformDoes it work?
Netflix✅ Yes
BBC iPlayer❌ No
YouTube✅ Yes
DAZN❌ No
Hulu✅ Yes

Private Internet Access VPN is capable of unblocking US libraries of some of the most popular streaming platforms. As for libraries in other countries, or streaming services other than Netflix, PIA VPN might not be as good when compared to NordVPN, as noted in our PIA vs NordVPN comparison. Nevertheless, let's take a closer look at how well PIA VPN works for streaming.

Unblocking Netflix with PIA

I tested PIA VPN with Netflix on multiple servers on both Windows and Android applications. It did work, and I was able to access Netflix US. However, the story was different with UK servers. PIA didn't manage to unblock exclusive Netflix UK content.

All in all, Private Internet Access is a pretty good VPN for Netflix if you want to access the US library. But if you want to stream content from the whole wide world, we suggest you look into other VPN providers, such as NordVPN.

Unblocking other streaming services with PIA

Unfortunately, the VPN didn’t work with DAZN or the BBC iPlayer. On the other hand, PIA VPN unblock geo-blocked videos on Youtube without breaking a sweat. It also seems that all of their US servers unblock Hulu. So, if you're looking into ways to unblock US streaming libraries, PIA can be helpful.

However, if you find that PIA is struggling with streaming services other than Netflix, you can find VPNs that work perfectly well here:

Is PIA good for torrenting?

Yes, PIA is good for torrenting, as all of its servers support P2P and torrenting. The VPN also offers an integrated SOCKS5 proxy and the Shadowsocks option to reroute your internet traffic for even more protection (or to protect only your torrent client, for example). You can expect PIA to work with the following torrenting clients, as they worked for us:

  • uTorrent
  • BitTorrent
  • qBittorrent

For this Private Internet Access review, I tried torrenting on my MacOS device. I was pleasantly surprised by PIA’s performance. That’s because torrenting not only worked - it was really fast compared to all the other torrenting VPNs that I tried. I was constantly getting 10-15 MB/s speeds (80-120 Mbps). There was no need to connect to specific servers for P2P support. Even the largest files won't take too long to download.

Plans & pricing

VersionPrice
1-month plan$9.95 a month
1-year plan$3.33 a month ($39.95 a year)
3-year plan$2.03 a month ($79 for three years)

The pricing system of Private Internet Access VPN is really simple. You get the same features with every single plan. The only difference is the duration of your subscription and the prices shift based on that.

You’ll pay the least if you commit to the two-year plan, which costs only $2.03 a month, or $79 for the whole duration of the subscription. In addition, you’ll get two extra months for free.

Buying the yearly subscription results in $3.33 a month, which would cost you $39.95 a year. You will pay the most for a single-month plan, which costs $9.95. As usual, their monthly plan is the most expensive.

Unfortunately, Private Internet Access VPN doesn't have a free trial. On the other hand, you can use their 30-day money-back guarantee if you realize that PIA and you are not a good fit.

In terms of payment options, Private Internet Access VPN offers a few different credit cards, gift cards, PayPal, and lots of cryptocurrency options like Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, and Litecoin.

  • Private Internet Access might be one of the cheapest VPNs of them all - however, if you're still not sure, check out our PIA VPN coupon page and get the best PIA deal for you. Otherwise, take a look at our list of the most affordable VPNs.

Servers and locations

I have yet to see a VPN with more servers than Private Internet Access VPN. That’s because its selection is massive: right now, it offers 30000+ VPN and proxy servers across 78 countries.

RegionsNumber of countries
Europe42 countries
Americas12 countries
Asia and Oceanic region
25 countries
Africa5 countries

The servers are located in Europe, South America, North America, Africa, Asia, as well as Australia and Oceania. However, a small part of the servers is virtual (PIA refers to them as “geo-located”), as it’s not possible to have physical servers in some countries due to certain regulatory reasons. For example, the Russian server is actually located in Estonia, the same applies to Hong Kong and other countries.

Virtual servers still behave as if you're located in the selected country, but they may be prone to more giveaway signs that you're using a VPN server.

Selecting a server to connect to is also pretty straightforward. Upon opening the app, you need to select ‘VPN servers’ and then connect to any of them.

Does PIA work in China?

Private Internet Access VPN might work in China thanks to the Shadowsocks proxy. However, there are no consistent reports about this. But if you're looking for a China-friendly VPN, be sure to check out our guide to the best VPNs for China.

Speed performance: how fast is PIA?

LocationDownload speed (Mbps)
Upload speed (Mbps)
US (NY)
111168
UK140222
Switzerland294254
Japan5788
Australia6777

Right off the bat - Private Internet Access is not the fastest VPN out there. If you want blazing fast speed, this provider might not always fulfill your needs to the max. Despite its high server count, it's not always able to deliver speeds that are as good as the ones of NordVPN or Surfshark. To get the optimal experience with PIA, you'll often have to pick the closest server to you. This again is unfortunate if you want to access, for example, streaming libraries from farther countries.

Despite this, the WireGuard protocol (which is regarded as the fastest protocol on the market right now) showed decent performance. The average drop in download speed over the five locations was 56%. WireGuard also retained 54% of the original upload speed on average, which is a little bit more than the download.

This is how PIA's average download speed looks when compared to other top VPN providers:

ProviderAverage download speed
PIA28%
NordVPN79% 🏆
ExpressVPN66%

PIA’s performance with other protocols

While WireGuard may be the most popular PIA’s protocol, let’s not forget that there are others as well. Let’s take a look at the average download and upload speeds of each protocol, tested across 10 different locations:

  • WireGuard: 124Mbps/154Mbps
  • OpenVPN (default settings) TCP: 32Mbps/37Mbps
  • OpenVPN (default settings) UDP: 126Mbps/131Mbps
  • OpenVPN (secure settings) TCP: 11Mbps/41Mbps
  • OpenVPN (secure settings) UDP: 139Mbps/137Mbps

The difference between OpenVPN default and secure settings is that PIA’s default encryption is AES-128 paired with RSA-2048 key, which is a little bit less secure than AES-256 paired with RSA-4096. I tested OpenVPN protocols with both the AES-128 (default) and AES-256 (secure) encryption settings.

Intuitively, you may think that lesser encryption will result in higher speeds, but as we can see, that is not the case. In fact, OpenVPN UDP protocol under the secure settings presents the best download speed of all protocols, with the drop being 54%. And even with default settings, the UDP protocol is significantly faster than the TCP.

ProtocolSpeedSecurityConnection stability
WireGuardHighest 🏆HighMedium
OpenVPN (TCP)
LowHighHigh
OpenVPN (UDP)
HighHighMedium

Interface and ease of use

You can download Private Internet Access VPN applications to your Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, and iOS devices. In addition, there are browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera that help when you want to block ads.

PlatformExperience
WindowsGenerally good, although a little bit buggy app
macOSThe smoothest PIA experience
LinuxIncredibly easy to install and use
MobileEasy to use and navigate
BrowserChrome extension offers some exclusive features

All PIA’s apps are intuitive and user-friendly. The design is easy on the eyes, and you can choose either the dark or the light theme. You also won’t have any problems with the installation process, as it’s quick, smooth, and doesn't require any prior knowledge.

However, it still seems like the VPN is geared towards more advanced users, as the abundance of different stats may confuse people who have never used a VPN before.

It’s also worth noting that all the Private Internet Access apps offer OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols, while the iOS app also supports IKEv2/IPsec.

You might also want to check out:

Windows

The Windows desktop application of PIA VPN is slick and easy to navigate. The main window lets you manage the VPN connection, while the Settings window allows you to customize the VPN to your needs. You can also customize whether the app will be in light or dark modes.

I like the fact that the main window displays a lot of information about your connection like the protocol, encryption, port, and authentication cipher. It also includes a connection speed graph with a counter that tracks the amount of data you sent and received during the VPN session.

It’s also nice that you can snooze the VPN for a specified amount of time. However, I find it a bit inconvenient that there’s no map to choose a server from, as trying to select a server from a list is not as intuitive. You'll get a big button which when pressed will connect to a nearby location automatically.

pia-windows-interface

I also experienced a weird bug that happened when connecting to a server. It caused my whole PC to freeze up for a few minutes. Then, the app crashed, and the PC started working normally again.

There’s one more thing you should know. Under the General tab, there’s the option to choose how the app is displayed on your screen (Attached to Tray/Window). Even though the default setting is Attached to Tray, I suggest you switch to Window as soon as possible - the former option makes the app automatically close as soon as you click outside it. Also, the Settings window is displayed behind the main tab, obscuring the view.

Mac

The app for Mac looks almost identical to the Windows application. Most of the features are there, including split tunneling, port forwarding, and the kill switch. The app was working smoothly and didn't crash once, which was a nice change after the Windows experience.

pia-mac-interface

Linux

Installing and using the Private Internet Access VPN app on Linux was surprisingly easy. All I had to do was download an installation script and run it. It has the same user interface as the macOS and Windows apps.

The application offers the same features as its Windows and macOS counterparts. However, the split tunneling feature is more complicated, because you need to be acquainted with the basics of the Linux filesystem to be able to use it. On the other hand, it has an additional option for virtual machines.

PIA mobile apps

The design of both of PIA’s mobile apps (Android and iOS) is almost identical to the desktop versions.

pia-android-interface-2

The functionality is also very similar. For example, you can rearrange the connection options, view the full connection info, and snooze the VPN for a selected amount of time.

On the mobile operating system, the Settings menu is a bit different. Most features are renamed and simplified in comparison to the desktop apps of PIA VPN. For instance, the Android app allows you to use split tunneling only for specific apps, but not for specific websites.

Chrome extension

Private Internet Access has extensions for three browsers - Chrome, Opera, and Firefox. Out of the three, we tested Chrome.

Overall, PIA's Chrome extension is a feature worth installing on your browser even if you already have the app on your device. It offers some neat features that browser extensions of other VPNs don’t really have.

For example, it can block access to your camera, microphone, and location from websites that do not ask for permission. On top of that, it also disables the credit card and address autofill function, meaning you won’t accidentally buy something you didn’t mean to or your credentials won’t get stolen.

PIA VPN features

Even though rich in features, PIA VPN makes sure you’re not overwhelmed by them. You can find everything you need in its Settings tab, neatly grouped into different categories. They range from additional privacy features to advanced functions that will be very useful to experienced users.

Split tunneling

Under the Network tab of Private Internet Access VPN there are lots of options for setting up split tunneling. It’s quite a useful feature that lets you select the applications that use (or don’t use) the VPN connection.

Private Internet Access VPN networking preferences user interface

It can be helpful when you want to use online banking on one browser while privately browsing with another. However, split tunneling is not limited to browsers - you can also include/exclude games and other apps that use the internet connection.

When testing this feature, I found that the Bypass VPN option did not work for some apps, but worked for others. Oracle VM VirtualBox didn’t work with the split tunneling feature at all (it functioned as if it was not on the split tunneling list). However, Google Chrome functioned as it should.

Port forwarding

Private Internet Access VPN supports port forwarding, an advanced feature that helps you connect to a remote device (among other things).

However, I found port forwarding a bit frustrating to use, since a forwarded port gets assigned to you randomly. As a result, you need to configure your network to forward that port as well. It is also important to note that PIA’s US servers don’t support port forwarding at all.

What I did like about this feature is that you can further customize it with command line interface and write your own scripts.

Proxy

PIA VPN allows you to use a proxy if you want to redirect the VPN connection through an additional location for an extra layer of anonymity when torrenting. You can also use this feature on your torrenting client or browser to save bandwidth.

private internet acces proxy settings screen

Simply go to the Proxy tab and select the option you want your connection to go through. You can choose between the SOCKS5 Proxy and Shadowsocks. The latter might even bypass the Great Firewall of China. It offers six countries: the UK, Switzerland, Canada, the US, Israel, and Japan.

Ad blocking

If you don’t want to see annoying ads anymore, then PIA’s got your back. All of its apps include an ad blocking feature called MACE that blocks online ads at the DNS level. Which means that you won’t encounter any pop-ups or banners anymore.

What’s even better is that PIA will also block YouTube ads, which will save you a lot of time and nerves. You also won’t accidentally open malicious websites. In addition, the tool blocks trackers that can compromise your online security.

To activate the feature, simply open the VPN application and enable the MACE setting.

Is PIA secure?

Private Internet Access is a safe VPN. All of its apps use WireGuard and OpenVPN encryption protocols, which are regarded as the most secure. With OpenVPN, you can either use the default AES-128 or the more secure AES-256 cipher. Additionally, there are additional handshake ciphers RSA-2048 and RSA-2096 for maximized security.

However, the default encryption algorithms and handshake ciphers were set to the least secure ones available in the app. To get the same level of security as with other VPNs, you need to know what you are doing and configure the options manually.

Cybernews Pro Tip

If you don't want to worry about any security attributes, look for a safe and user-friendly VPN, like NordVPN. It offers great protection and is easy to use.

Get NordVPN
PIA security preferences

Encryption

When using Private Internet Access with the OpenVPN protocol, it’s up to you to set the level of encryption - or else it will be left on the default AES-128 (CBC). So, here are your choices once you open the Connections tab:

  • AES-128 (CBC)
  • AES-128 (GCM)
  • AES-256 (CBC)
  • AES-256 (GCM)

All of these options are really secure, but there exist a few differences between them. For example, even though AES-128 and AES-256 are both impenetrable to brute force attacks, AES-256 is the more secure one, and thus considered the golden standard.

Now, the main differences between CBC and GCM are speed and security: GCM is newer, more secure, and faster than CBC.

You can also disable the encryption entirely. Your credentials will still be encrypted and your IP hidden - however, not encrypting the actual data might allow for better speeds, which is pretty good for streaming and gaming, when speed is more important than security.

There’s also the possibility to pick between the SHA1 and SHA2 hashing algorithms for authentication (the latter being the stronger one). You’ll also find a long list of handshake methods that include RSA-4096 and ECC-521.

Tunneling protocols

It’s always good to have a selection of tunneling protocols, because different protocols may be better for different purposes. For example, one may be faster than the other but less secure. And if you're not concerned about speed, but want to keep your data encrypted at all costs, then choosing a protocol that is not so fast, but much more secure would be the way to go.

Private Internet Access VPN tunneling protocol selection is not a very extensive one, but there's something for every case:

  • Wireguard. This open-source tunneling protocol fits everyone’s needs. Strong security aside, it offers much faster speeds than other VPN protocols.
  • OpenVPN (UDP/TCP). Being a staple tunneling protocol, OpenVPN has proven its reliability time and time again. PIA VPN lets you choose between two versions, UDP (faster) and TCP (a bit slower but more stable).
  • IKEv2/IPsec. You can find this tunneling protocol only on the iOS app of Private Internet Access VPN. It’s great for mobile devices, as it offers great speed and stability.

Logging

Private Internet Access VPN is based in Colorado, US. As this is not the most privacy-friendly country you could think of (for starters, it belongs to the 5 Eyes Alliance), it’s important to get acquainted with PIA’s privacy policy.

So, the first thing you should know is that PIA VPN claims to not collect any activity logs. However, it does collect your username, IP, and data usage. On the other hand, this info is deleted as soon as you close the application.

Another important thing in terms of logging is the Private Internet Access’s NextGen network. Its servers are RAM-only, which means that their data is wiped out with every server reboot. This reduces the risk of third-party breaches and doesn’t allow such data as your browsing activity be collected.

PIA VPN also logs your email address (for account management), some payment data (thankfully, not your full credit card details), cookie identifiers, the territory of origin, and your ZIP code. In addition, PIA’s privacy policy states:

We may disclose your Personal Data to any member of our group of companies (this means our subsidiaries, our ultimate holding company and all its subsidiaries) insofar as reasonably necessary for the purposes set out in this Policy.

Even after reading the whole document, I wasn't sure what was meant by "reasonably necessary". PIA's privacy policy is generally extremely vague, which is not the best practice for a privacy-focused product like VPN.

There's another downside to the VPN's privacy matters - PIA’s no-logs policy has never been audited and independently proved to be in effect.

Kill Switch

Every VPN should have a reliable kill switch, and thankfully, PIA VPN has a good one. It works like this: if the connection to the VPN gets interrupted, i.e., your real IP is no longer protected, PIA will disconnect you from the internet.

Private Internet Access Kill Switch

You have to reconnect to the VPN or turn on your wifi manually in order to restore the connection. In this way, your real IP address won’t accidentally leak.

Customer support

If you run into some technical difficulties or simply have a question about Private Internet Access VPN, you can visit the VPN’s help center that includes:

  • Setup guides
  • A knowledge base
  • A community forum

You can also fill in a support ticket or reach an agent through live chat. However, PIA’s customer support didn’t manage to solve my problem with my WireGuard connection. The agent insisted that the problem was related to my device instead of the VPN.

Despite this, I still managed to get PIA to work. All things considered, I'd say that their customer service agents are qualified and polite. This really makes solving all problems that you might have, much easier.

Is PIA VPN good?

PIA is a good VPN, but it could do with some polish here and there. It is a service with a huge server count, good speeds for torrenting, and a strong emphasis on security options. However, its best qualities can’t make one turn a blind eye to its flaws, such as their privacy policy and failure to unblock some streaming services.

PIA doesn’t have exceptional speeds, it is based in the US (a 5-Eyes country), has a vague and unclear privacy policy, and hasn’t seen an independent audit yet (unlike these VPNs that we regard as the safest options). On top of that, the customizable security levels with OpenVPN protocols may be nice for experienced users, and yet confusing for those who haven’t used a VPN before.

All in all, Private Internet Access is worth your attention if you don’t particularly care about logging policies or need it only for unblocking US Netflix or Hulu.


More on VPN providers from Cybernews:

PIA vs. ExpressVPN: which is the winner?

Surfshark review: VPN with strong security and great features for a competitive price

PIA vs. NordVPN: how do they compare?


FAQ

Comments

Jim
Jim
prefix 10 months ago
I have been using PIA for over five years installed on my two Windows laptops, a 2009 MacBook running Ubuntu Mate, a 2014 Mac Mini running Ubuntu Mate, a Chormebook, an Android tablet, an iPad, and two Android phones. I usually have at least four connected and running at the same time. My internet connection is with xFinity and my speeds are over 100 Mbps, with very rare exceptions down to 70 Mpbs. I secure all my devices with antivirus running in the background.
goodman
goodman
prefix 10 months ago
it honestly seems like a deal, feature rich, average price, okay speed, supports streaming services, the only downside is that private internet access is based in 5 eyes country, that kind of defeats the privacy purpose of using a vpn
moves like jagger
moves like jagger
prefix 11 months ago
Anything over 100 mbps for me seems like a good enogh speed for streaming, but the PIA speed drops seems pretty substantial. Also the server count is impressive.
loyds
loyds
prefix 11 months ago
Support for 10 devices! Wow I guess you could try using PIA for sneaker copping, not sure about their IPs. Are they well known and get blocked easily? Speed might be a problem as well.
Rūta Rimkienė
Rūta Rimkienė
prefix 11 months ago
Hello! PIA has thousands of servers, so IP blocking shouldn’t be an issue here. However, if you’re concerned with speeds, I’d suggest NordVPN or Surfshark instead.
Max
Max
prefix 1 year ago
surfshark has unlimited devices. using pia vpn how many devices can you connect at the same time? i don’t need unlimited like surfshark, but if pia has less than 4, then i will consider other options. i want to install it on router and connect all smart devices.
Rūta Rimkienė
Rūta Rimkienė
prefix 1 year ago
Hi, Max! I think PIA would be the right VPN for you because it supports 10 simultaneous connections. You can also set up PIA on your router, however, the speed will be a bit worse. You will find all the setup guides here.
Louie
Louie
prefix 1 year ago
According to review pia seems like a very suitable vpn for me. I really like, that it is not expensive, torrenting is also very fast. The only concern I have that it is not working with Netflix. But. does pia work with popcorn time? I don’t care about netflix, but popcorn time is a must for me.
Rūta Rimkienė
Rūta Rimkienė
prefix 1 year ago
Hi, Louie! PIA VPN should work with Popcorn Time without trouble. In fact, Popcorn Time even encourages you to use a VPN for enhanced safety. You can check our guide of the best VPNs for Popcorn Time.
pia user
pia user
prefix 1 year ago
How to install private internet access on amazon fire stick ? This vpn doesn’t have a dedicated app for fire stick, so it might be difficult to install it. Do you have any guide on how to do it? 
Rūta Rimkienė
Rūta Rimkienė
prefix 1 year ago
Hello, PIA user! You’re right – there’s no dedicated app for Amazon Fire Stick, and the installation process is a bit complicated. Luckily, PIA VPN has an extensive guide on how to do this in the most efficient way possible.
terrance colls
terrance colls
prefix 1 year ago
private internet access vpn roku is the best combo for me. roku is better than firestick to me. using it with private internet access made everything approachable. this vpn doesn’t lag, the speed is good, and so far, no one detected that i’m using a vpn!
jai
jai
prefix 1 year ago
Hey, Cybernews team! I’m not a techie at all. I’m planning on buying a VPN. After reading a couple of reviews I’m leaning towards this one. But what is private internet access simultaneous connections ? I’m looking for a VPN that can allow many connections at the same time :phone, tablet, pc, and if this feature is allowing it, then I’m buying it! 
Rūta Rimkienė
Rūta Rimkienė
prefix 1 year ago
Hello, Jai! Having simultaneous connections means that you can use the VPN on a bunch of different devices at the same time: your laptop, smartphone, tablet, etc. As I understood from your comment, this is exactly what you need, because PIA allows you to have 10 connections at the same time. Hope this helped!
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked