|Price||$2.85/m. (On 1-Year Plan)|
|Servers||3300+ servers in 30 countries|
|Works in China||No|
|Compatibility||Windows, Android, Apple, Desktop, Chrome, Firefox|
The devil is in the details. I looked past Private Internet Access’ celebrity status in the VPN industry and looked at whether the performance matches the publicity. What I found left me thoroughly disappointed.
Users still can’t find better options than PIA for their torrenting needs thanks to its SOCKS5 proxy. Additionally, the service continues to boast one of the securest encryptions on the market.
However, PIA has long lost the ability to unblock Netflix, highlighted how the service’s fame may have started hunting it. This was probably the reason why its Chinese server was shut down leading to it being incapable of unblocking China as well.
A once-great provider may be on a downward spiral. Users would be advised to look to other better, and more reliable VPN providers such as PureVPN to secure their digital presence thanks to its highly affordable plans.
- Jurisdiction: Where Is Private Internet Access Located?
- Security: Is Private Internet Access A Safe Option?
- Leaks: Are Your IP, DNS & WebRTC safe?
- Servers: How Many Servers Does Private Internet Access Have?
- Streaming: Can Private Internet Access Unblock Netflix?
- Speed: How Fast Are Private Internet Access Servers?
- Compatibility: What Devices Can I Use Private Internet Access On?
- Pricing: Is Private Internet Access An Affordable Option?
- Trustworthiness: What Do Other Users Say About Private Internet Access?
Jurisdiction: Where Is Private Internet Access Located?
Private Internet Access (PIA) is based out of the United States. It goes without saying that as a VPN headquarter, it is a terrible location. There are multiple reasons why the United States is such a dangerous location to be based out of.
For instance, the United States leads the notorious 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance. This intelligence-sharing group closely coordinates and shares information about the internet activities of their citizens with one another. Additionally, the US has a slew of data retention laws at both federal and state levels making it near impossible for a user to properly be safe online. These laws apply vigorously to all companies based out of the US, including PIA.
Security: Is Private Internet Access A Safe Option?
No, the service’s encryptions and self-proclaimed logging policy are overshadowed by the problematic issue of its US-origins. There have been too many cases of the US authorities exercising their powers and gaining access to user info, leading me to label any VPN operating from the country to be unsafe.
Minimalist Logging Policy
No, the service claims not to store any logs. PIA comes across as being extremely devoted to the anonymity of its users, thanks to its no-logs policy’s clarity on the subject.
As the service states, information such as emails, payment data, and cookies are all the info they save on their users. Collecting this info is necessary to ensure an optimum customer experience to all their users.
Private Internet Access Encryption & Protocols
I found PIA to be using the most secure encryptions and protocols available on the market. Users’ connections are encrypted via the military-grade 256-bit encryption. As additional security, it is equipped with SHA-1 or SHA-256 encryption. For authentication, the service uses the RSA-2048 public-key encryption.
All of these are supported via PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN, and SOCKS5 Tunnel proxy giving PIA the optimal amount of security in this regard.
Private Internet Access VirusTotal Test
I carried out a virus test to be certain that there were no hidden malware or viruses that could harm a user’s device. Here’s the result of that test:
As users can see, there are no major viruses or malware that should be of any concern to the users.
Leaks: Are Your IP, DNS & WebRTC Safe?
A VPN service is meant to keep users safe online and ensure their complete privacy. This is done by securing the IP, DNS, and WebRTC safe. Hence, I carried out a series of tests for leaks to be sure that I was not left exposed at any front. Here are the results:
As users can see, there are no major leaks to worry about while using PIA.
Servers: How Many Servers Does Private Internet Access Have?
PIA is known for its wide network of servers and it’s easy to see why. It can offer users access to nearly 3300+ servers in 30 countries. Additionally, the service also makes it clear that all these servers are physical leading to greater stability.
Does Private Internet Access Support P2P/File Sharing?
Yes, PIA works like a charm for all the users’ torrenting needs.
This is primarily due to the SOCKS5 proxy that PIA has. It enables the service to reroute all the users’ data packets through safe and secure servers, thus masking their actual activities online.
To ensure maximum safety, PIA recommends using two servers i.e. Switzerland and the Netherlands to guarantee maximum anonymity during your P2P sharing activities.
Does Private Internet Access Work in China?
Unfortunately, no. Despite having such a tremendous number of servers, the service is as of yet unavailable in China.
Given how China’s continuously been amplifying censorship online, VPNs have quickly become one of the only ways to continue to retain access to free internet. Hence, a VPN that can unblock content from inside China stands to gain a lot of users.
Similarly, users from outside the country that want access to geo-restricted Chinese content also rely on these services. The lack of a Chinese server may well be costing PIA a high number of potential users and millions in revenues.
Streaming: Can Private Internet Access Unblock Netflix?
I was shocked to see that PIA cannot unblock Netflix. With such a plethora of servers, I fully expected this to be little more than a formality for PIA. However, I was wrong. I tried to unblock Netflix through various servers but no luck.
It turns out that this was not the case until very recently. PIA has been able to unblock Netflix, but the streaming service’s VPN detection technology finally caught up with it. To put this theory to test, I tried to unblock all the other major streaming sites like Amazon Prime, Hulu, Hotstar, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+ which PIA passed with flying colors. Due to their weaker detection mechanisms, PIA is able to unblock all these platforms with ease.
Speed: How Fast are Private Internet Access Servers?
Having the numbers is impressive in its own right. However, do those numbers really mean anything in terms of speed? To put these 3300+ servers, I conducted a speed test and connected to 5 random servers in the UK, Germany, Spain, India, and Mexico using a 100Mbps connection. Here are the results:
Compatibility: What Devices Can I Use Private Internet Access On?
It always reflects positively on a service’s perception of being user-friendly if it offers complete cross-compatibility. I’m sure users will be glad to know that PIA is good for use on Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, and iOS. This is in addition to the dedicated browser extensions available on Firefox and Chrome to maximize the customer experience online.
Pricing: Is Private Internet Access An Affordable Option?
PIA offers the standard 3 payment plans that should be good enough for all kinds of users as well as being suited to different budgets i.e. the monthly, yearly, and 6-months. I should mention here that the yearly plan comes with a free trial for the first 2 months.
Private Internet Access Payment Methods
Users will be able to pay via the standard VISA/Mastercard credit cards, as well as through PayPal. I found the fact that PIA supports Bitcoin as well as other major cryptocurrencies such as Ripple, Mint in addition to Amazon Pay to be one of its standout features because of the financial anonymity these options offer.
Private Internet Access Refund Policy
PIA offers users a 7-day money-back guarantee. However, this is far below the industry-standard 30-Day policy that most other reliable VPNs offer.
Trustworthiness: What Do Other Users Say About Private Internet Access?
I wanted to see whether my experience was similar to what the rest of its users experience or not. Hence, I headed over to Trustpilot and Reddit to see how is PIA viewed by the online community. Here are the results:
Private Internet Access Trustpilot Review
PIA’s Trustpilot rating is one of the highest ones for a VPN service on the review site. It holds a highly reputable 4/5 stars on the basis of 5689 reviews.
I found 80% of the reviews to be either Excellent or Great, further corroborating the belief that the service delivers on all the promises that it makes. Having looked at the review sites, I believe that most of these reviews were made by genuine users and no shady practices are at play here at all.
Private Internet Access Reddit Review
As I expected, Reddit was a lot more no-holds-barred. The forum is known for being completely unabashed about service, especially ones that make promises and fail to deliver on them. I found some interesting insights about PIA on the forum.
It seems that the downfall of PIA began when the service was taken over by a rival company that owns another VPN service. This led to a heightened sense of discomfort among users because of the new company’s past history of shady practices.
Similarly, users’ complained of the service’s instability across different platforms such as on iOS leaving users with basic issues like disconnections and throttling that should not exist for a VPN of such caliber.
Private Internet Access Customer Support
I should mention here that PIA’s customer support is severely lacking. For a VPN provider that’s been in the market for such an extended period and is widely considered one of the best VPN services on the market, this is simply not good enough.
For instance, there is no 24/7 live chat support. The only option to communicate with the service that a user has is the email support that can take anywhere between a week to 10 days. While I found the replies to be thorough and helpful, there should be an option to get prompt and instantaneous answers.
Additionally, the service also offers a knowledge base, guides, and a blog. Overall, while not bad I would say PIA needs to overhaul its existing customer support to match the rest of its service.
Private Internet Access Alternatives
It used to be a tall order for any VPN to match PIA in the VPN industry. This process of decay has meant that it has become for rival VPNs to not only match but exceed anything that PIA has to offer.
PIA continues to be the preferred service as far as torrenting goes as well as one of the most impressive encryptions and protocols on the market. However, its other standout features have declined over the years.
It is unable to unblock Netflix, and most importantly, the recent takeover has led to a virtual collapse of customer confidence in the service’s ability to properly mask their internet connections.
For this reason, I would advise users to opt for a VPN like PureVPN that has risen in reputation in recent years because of its commitment to user-privacy online at extremely affordable rates.
You can also look at other alternatives to PIA below and their comparisons of pricing, features, unblocking capabilities, torrenting/streaming performance, setup and interface, servers, security offered, customer service and more:
Do I Recommend Private Internet Access VPN?
No, I cannot recommend PIA. I know I’m going against the market’s opinion considering how Private Internet Access is regularly touted as the definitive VPN. However, that may have been true a few years ago. Things have changed drastically since that infamous takeover and I believe this review should reflect that.
The service has lost the ability to unblock Netflix while also becoming incapable of unblocking China after the recent round of crackdowns in the country. But apart from all this, my main contention with the service i.e. being based out of the United States continues to be a major factor.
Any VPN based out of the United States needs to offer something extraordinary in order to make me disregard its US-origins. PIA, despite its formidable reputation, does not offer anything of that value. Hence, I would recommend users to opt for PureVPN for numerous reasons, primarily because it is based in the British Virgin Islands.