ExpressVPN vs PIA (Private Internet Access): Which VPN is Best in 2022?
Since a lot of prospects look at VPN services from an untrained eye, subscribing to one that suits their needs and requirements tends to be a difficult task.
In this ExpressVPN vs PIA comparison analysis, we will cover all the primary factors that can guide a user in the decision stage of the “buyer’s journey” of purchasing the right product for their needs.
These factors include features, pricing, speed, servers, security, privacy, configuration, user interface, unblocking capabilities, and customer service.
ExpressVPN is based in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands which gives users a clear signal to choose a winner, as the counterpart, PIA, is based in the USA, which is one of the founding members of the 5, 9, and 14 Eyes Alliance.
Got the hang of what I’m trying to do here, right? Now, in a similar manner, I’ll be competing these two VPN giants against each other in all the categories mentioned above and then summarize the end results in front of you to let you decide which provider you should go for.
So without any further ado, let’s start with the highlights!
ExpressVPN vs PIA (Private Internet Access): Highlights
Servers in 94+
Servers in 84
|Encryption||AES 256-bit||AES 256-bit|
|No-Logs Policy||Yes (Independent audit by PwC)||Yes (Independent audit by Deloitte)|
|VPN Protocols||OpenVPN, IKEv2, Lightway||OpenVPN, WireGuard|
|Compatible Devices||Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS||Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS|
|Pricing||$6.67/mo. (1-Year Plan)||$2.03/mo. (3-Year Plan)|
|Coupons & Deals||49% Off with 3 Free Months on the 1-Year Plan||83% Off with 3 Free Months on the 3-Year Plan|
|Trial & Money-Back Guarantee||7-Day Free Trial on Android and iOS & 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee||7-Day Free Trial on Android and iOS & 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee|
|Payment Mode||Credit/Debit Cards, PayPal, Bitcoin, Payment Wall||Credit/Debit Cards, PayPal, BitPay|
|Streaming Services||Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, and more||Netflix, HBO Max, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, and more|
|Support Services||Live Chat, Knowledge Base, Setup Guides||Live Chat, Knowledge Base, Setup Guides|
ExpressVPN vs PIA (Private Internet Access): Features
|Operating System Apps||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV/Firestick, some routers||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux|
|Manual Install Devices||Some Routers, Set-Top Boxes||Some Routers|
|Free Extras||MediaStreamer Smart DNS, browser extensions for Chrome, and Firefox||SOCKS5 Proxy and ad/tracker blocker|
You even have browser extensions available for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. ExpressVPN gains the upper hand over PIA with its dedicated router app, which allows you to easily configure ExpressVPN on a router to cover devices like Apple TV, Roku, Xbox, PS4, and more.
The BVI-based provider is the only one in the marketplace that offers a native app for DD-WRT and Tomato routers, along with pre-configured routers, at reasonable prices.
Both VPNs offer split-tunneling tools which allow users to use the public and private network simultaneously without turning off the VPN.
However, PIA makes up for all the shortcomings by offering more simultaneous connections than ExpressVPN. Where you have only 5 simultaneous connections with ExpressVPN, PIA offers 10 multi-logins.
ExpressVPN vs PIA (Private Internet Access): Pricing and Discounts
|Special offer||49% Off on a 1-Year Plan||83% Off on a 1-Year Plan|
|Highest price per month||$12.95||$11.95|
|Lowest price per month||$6.67||$2.03|
|Money-Back Guarantee||30 Days||30 Days|
ExpressVPN is one of the most expensive VPNs in the industry, and it has all its reasons to be. Nonetheless, Private Internet Access (PIA) is the clear winner in this category as the VPN offers an affordable 1-year plan costing an upfront payment of $39.95 only.
You can even save more if you opt for the 3-year plan, which is only $79, still a budget-friendly option than its counterpart, ExpressVPN, which only offers a 1-year plan for $99.95.
As far as money backs are concerned, both VPNs offer a 30-day refund guarantee, so you can try the VPN risk-free.
PIA vs ExpressVPN: Speed
ExpressVPN and PIA are both famed for being incredibly reliable services. However, do they offer good enough performance for you to enjoy all internet-related activities?
To find out, I conducted an in-depth speed analysis on both providers. This process invovled testing 5 servers from varied locations of ExpressVPN and PIA.
These servers were based in USA, UK, France, Australia and Canada. In bare speed tests, PIA clocked in with a speed loss of around 25%, while ExpressVPN was slightly better at 9% on average.
I even tested the most used protocol OpenVPN with TCP and UDP variants to measure the difference between the two protocols. Here are the results:
|Avg. Download Speed||93 Mbps||70 Mbps|
|Avg. Upload Speed||90 Mbps||65 Mbps|
ExpressVPN OpenVPN (UDP) speed on a 100 Mbps connection using a US server
PIA OpenVPN (UDP) speed on a 100 Mbps connection using a US server
|Avg. Download Speed||82 Mbps||60 Mbps|
|Avg. Upload Speed||78 Mbps||54 Mbps|
ExpressVPN OpenVPN (TCP) speed on a 100 Mbps connection using a US server
PIA OpenVPN (TCP) speed on a 100 Mbps connection using a US server
As evident from the results, ExpressVPN is the clear winner in this category dominating PIA in all aspects.
ExpressVPN vs PIA (Private Internet Access): Servers and Performance
Both ExpressVPN and PIA use an assortment of physical and virtual locations for their network infrastructure as to meet the demands of users in different countries.
Both VPNs cover many regions across the world, including the Americas, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and others.
There is not much difference in the server count. Where ExpressVPN offers 3000+ servers, PIA adds 300 more to the list, giving it an edge over the BVI-based provider.
However, what ExpressVPN lacks in numbers, it makes up for it by covering more countries than PIA. While PIA covers 84 countries, ExpressVPN beats the provider by coving 94+ countries covering 160 locations!
ExpressVPN vs PIA (Private Internet Access): Security Features
|VPN Protocols||OpenVPN, IKEv2, Lightway||OpenVPN, WireGuard|
|OpenVPN Data Encryption||AES-256-CBC||AES-128 & 256|
|OpenVPN Control Channel Encryption||RSA-4096||RSA-4096|
|Cloaking Technology||Cipher Block Chaining||None|
|App Security||Kill Switch||Kill Switch|
|DNS Status||Private DNS||Private DNS|
ExpressVPN offers support for three protocols: OpenVPN, IKEv2, and Lightway, which is the provider’s custom lightweight propriety protocol. Meanwhile, PIA has OpenVPN and WireGuard in its bucket.
The BVI-based provider uses OpenVPN as the default protocol across all devices. It uses AES-256-CBC ciphers with HMAC SHA-256 data authentication on the data channel.
For the control channel, it uses AES-256-GCM ciphers with RSA-384 handshake and HMAC SHA-256 data authentication.
On the other hand, PIA uses the AES-256-bit ciphers with SHA256 for data authentication and RSA-4096 for handshake on the data channel.
For the control channel, PIA uses the same ciphers and hash authentication, with the inclusion of SHA384 for authentication. Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFE) is available via ECDHE+ECDSA.
However, ExpressVPN is the more secure option, as they utilize cipher block chaining and their TrustedServer Infrastructure shifts all its hard drives onto a RAM model, deleting all logs instantaneously.
ExpressVPN vs PIA (Private Internet Access): Privacy Features
|Headquarters||British Virgin Islands||United States|
|Sign Up Information||Email Address||Email Address|
|Anonymous Payment Methods||Bitcoin||Bitcoin|
One look at the table above and it becomes clear which provider is more secure. ExpressVPN has its headquarters in the British Virgin Islands, while PIA is located in the United States.
Since the BVI is an autonomous nation with its own set of laws, it is free from the invasive tactics adopted by the 5/9/14 Eyes alliances, like mass surveillance and data retention.
The same cannot be said about the United States, which is a founding member of the Five Eyes. As such, even if a provider boasts a no-logs policy, trusting them is a difficult task.
However, both VPNs have a strict no-logs policy and are even audited by renowned auditing firms. ExpressVPN is audited by PwC and PIA has been audited by Deloitte.
As far as anonymous payment methods are concerned, both VPNs have support for BitPay via Bitcoin.
ExpressVPN vs PIA (Private Internet Access): Configuration
For configurations, both ExpressVPN and PIA utilize a shared network infrastructure. As a result, they can be considered equal in this aspect.
While ExpressVPN lacks static IPs, it offers a rotating mechanism for IPs which are changing everytime you connect to a server. On the other hand, PIA offers static/dedicated IPs which allows you to reserve an IP for yourself, but it requires an additional cost of $3.75 on the 3-year plan.
Both services can be considered as one of the best VPNs for gaming because of the DDoS protection, which can give you a magical experience while playing your favorite games such as Fortnite, PUBG, Overwatch, and more.
I would say it’s a tie in this category as both VPNs give head-to-head competition to each other.
PIA VPN vs ExpressVPN: Setup and Interface
|Automatic Setup Wizard||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS|
|Main Location Selection||List-based||List-based|
|Extra Settings Pages||Yes||Yes|
ExpressVPN has recently undergone a complete overhaul of its app design and appearance. From the previous “larger” and cluttered styling, they have opted for something minimalistic.
The desktop app is quite compact with a locations menu popping when you click on the “three dots” and connect button available upon launching the application on Windows, Mac, or Linux.
For altering configurations, there is a hamburger button on the top left corner of the page. Clicking it will give you access to all vital settings and features.
On the other hand, PIA’s applications still require some work in the overall UI and appearance. Their desktop versions sit in the taskbar, which is accessible by right-clicking the icon.
While this is a nice design, it also brings about with it some hassle. The app basically hides itself the second you click somewhere else on the screen. As such, you constantly have to reopen the app.
This can be quite tiring and frustrating, especially if you are trying to follow a setup or configuration guide since following a huge list of steps can be a difficult task.
As far as mobile apps are concerned, ExpressVPN maintains the same design and consistency in overall UI, which does not get disturbed even when used on a larger screen.
PIA’s mobile apps are nicely designed and tend to be clutter-free. All options are listed neatly and connecting takes barely a few seconds, which is quite remarkable.
ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access: Unblocking Capabilities
In terms of unblocking, ExpressVPN managed to deliver quite an amazing performance. PIA, on the other hand, has a more “hit or miss” framework at bypassing geo-restrictions and VPN bans.
I was able to access Netflix and other VoDs, but the performance was quite “inconsistent”. Getting these streaming platforms to work required shifting to many different VPN servers.
Nonetheless, both VPNs were amazing when I carried out my torrenting activities, offering great download and uploading speeds on BitTorrent, qBittorrent, and others.
All the servers offered by both VPNs are P2P optimized so you don’t have to keep on finding a server which works best with your P2P operations.
Also, PIA has a special feature called the SOCKS5 Proxy, which is basically an enhanced proxy that you can use on torrenting clients.
ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access: Do they actually work in China?
Luckily for ExpressVPN users, the services work inside China if you download and install the VPN beforehand since VPN websites are banned in the country. However, there are no Chinese servers offered by ExpressVPN.
PIA, on the other hand, offers no such incentives to Chinese users. Their services do not work in China, making it impossible for people to use their service.
ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access: Customer Service
|Searchable Knowledge Base||Yes||Yes|
|Average Email Response Time||33 Minutes||45 Minutes|
|Live Chat Support||Yes||Yes|
Both (ExpressVPN Vs PIA) offer support via live chat, email, and a ticket system. Testing the live chat services revealed that responses were quite fast.
Email/ticket support did take some time with PIA (averaging at 45 minutes per reply), whereas ExpressVPN cut it shorter (averaging at 33 minutes).
We conducted these tests by sending each VPN three questions via email. Among them, two were general queries and two were a little more technical. See the statistics below:
Customer Service: ExpressVPN
|Question||Initial Response Time||Number of Emails||Question Answered|
|Can ExpressVPN be traced?||15 Minutes||1||Yes|
|Does ExpressVPN store Logs?||18 Minutes||1||Yes|
|How to Watch Netflix with ExpressVPN?||55 Minutes||1||Yes|
|What features does ExpressVPN offer for torrenting?||47 Minutes||1||Yes|
Customer Service: PIA
|Question||Initial Response Time||Number of Emails||Question Answered|
|Why is PIA located in a Five Eyes Country?||1 Hour||1||Yes|
|Does Private Internet Access keep logs?||45 Minutes||1||Yes|
|Does private Internet access work with Netflix?||50 Minutes||1||Yes|
|How do I get a refund from private Internet access?||44 Minutes||1||Yes|
ExpressVPN vs PIA: Which One is Better?
|Pricing and Discounts||❌||✅|
|Servers and Performance||✅||❌|
|Setup and Interface||✅||❌|
As evident from the above-mentioned table, ExpressVPN clean sweeps the US-based PIA in 8 out of 10 categories.
In this ExpressVPN vs PIA comparison guide, while both of the VPNs reviewed deliver amazing performance, security, privacy, and features, ExpressVPN definitely tends to be the better option.
It offers a larger network of servers, successfully unblocks Netflix, works in China, and even offers a router app that works on DD-WRT and Tomato routers.
It is headquartered in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands and offers all the necessary tools to keep you anonymous on the web.
At $6.67/mo. with an upfront payment of $99.95, ExpressVPN can be expensive and the quality it offers justifies its pricey factor.
If you have anything to add or enquire, do not hesitate to leave us a message!
FAQs: ExpressVPN vs PIA
Which one is the better choice between ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access?
ExpressVPN is a better VPN than Private Internet Access overall. It has a network of 3000+ servers in 94+ countries with streaming and P2P qualities on all servers, constantly rotating to give you a new IP address every time you connect to a server.
What considerations should I make while deciding between ExpressVPN and PIA?
While choosing a VPN, pay close attention to the number of servers, connection speed, simultaneous connections, streaming support, pricing, and security features.
There are VPNs out there that will give an amazing online experience, while others can slow down your connection.
If you have to choose, ExpressVPN is the provider to go for since it has won in all categories in this in-depth comparison analysis.
Which VPN is faster between ExpressVPN and PIA?
ExpressVPN is faster than Private Internet Access. As evident by the speed test performed in this blog, ExpressVPN only has a speed loss percentage of 6.5%, while PIA has a speed loss percentage of 29.13%.
Moreover, upon testing both providers with the renowned OpenVPN protocol with both of its variants, namely TCP and UDP, ExpressVPN came out as the winner by beating its counterpart with a huge margin.
How private is ExpressVPN?
ExpressVPN is really private since it is based in one of the privacy-friendly regions called the British Virgin Islands which has flexible data retention laws and the region is not a part of the 5, 9, or 14 Eyes Alliance Group.
The provider uses TrustedServer Technology which means the total network infrastructure is working on RAM-based servers which don’t have the ability to store information.
Moreover, ExpressVPN has also been independently audited by one of the big four auditing firms called PwC.
Is PIA still a good VPN?
Yes, PIA is near the top of our rating, offering budget-friendly plans with fast speed, strong security, and top-tier VPN features to secure your online presence.
However, if I compete PIA with ExpressVPN, ExpressVPN easily wins the battle.
Is there a better VPN than ExpressVPN?
ExpressVPN is the best overall VPN for all kinds of activities on the internet. However, the provider is avoided by many users just because of its pricey plans.
In that case, I recommend signing up for Surfshark as the provider offers almost the same quality with plans that are easy on the pocket.