ExpressVPN vs. PIA (Private Internet Access)
Since a lot prospects look at VPN services from an untrained eye, subscribing to one that suits their needs and requirements tends to be a difficult task.
Pricing and Discounts
|Subscription Period||1 Month||1 Month|
|6 Months||6 Months|
|1 Year||1 Year|
|Special offer||35% Off on a 1-Year Plan||67% Off on a 1-Year Plan|
|Highest price per month||$12.95||$10.95|
|Lowest price per month||$8.32||$3.33|
|Money Back Guarantee||30-Days||7-Days|
Upon comparing the two service, it becomes clear that ExpressVPN is a slightly more expensive service. It offers three tiers in subscriptions: monthly, six months, and yearly.
The monthly plan starts at a high $12.95. However, if you opt a lengthy subscription, you can gain better value while paying less.
For instance, the six-months plan will cost you $9.99/mo. (billed as $59.95 every 6-months), and the yearly $8.32/mo. (billed as $99.95 every 12-months).
PIA, on the other hand, tends to be way more inexpensive. The provider also offers three tiers in subscriptions: monthly, 6-months, and yearly.
Their monthly starts at $10.95, which is $2 cheaper than ExpressVPN. The 6-month plan costs $5.99/mo, billed as $35.95, meaning it is $24 cheaper.
For the yearly plan, PIA gives a massive 67% discount, as compared to ExpressVPN’s 35%. This means, you pay $3.33/mo., totaling to $39.95 for 24-months.
As far as money backs are concerned, ExpressVPN offers a 30-days refund guarantee, whereas PIA only provides a 7-day refund. However, it is justified, considering their low pricing.
Get This Best Deal for ExpressVPN: 35% Off on a 1-Year Plan
Get This Best Deal for PIA: 67% Off on a 1-Year Plan
|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|
|Split Tunneling||Yes (Desktop Apps Only)||No|
|Free Extras||Media Streamer Smart DNS, browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari||SOCKS5 Proxy and ad/tracker blocker|
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.
Split Tunneling is available with the desktop apps for ExpressVPN, but none of PIA’s apps. This is quite alarming, considering the feature is crucial for torrenters and streamers.
However, PIA makes up for this by offering more in the way of simultaneous connections. Where you have only 3 simultaneous connections with ExpressVPN, PIA offers 10 multi-logins.
In terms of unblocking, ExpressVPN managed to deliver quite an amazing performance. PIA, on the other hand, failed miserably 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.
Luckily for ExpressVPN users, the provider does offer a dedicated Chinese page. This allows residents in the country to download their apps and subscribe to a suitable plan.
PIA, on the other hand, offers no such incentives to Chinese users. They do not have a Chinese mirror website, making it impossible for people to use their service.
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 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.
As far as mobile apps are concerned, ExpressVPN maintains the same design and consistency in overall UI, which does not get disturbed even when using on a larger screen.
On the other hand, PIA’s applications still require some work in the overall UI and appearance. Their desktop versions sit in the task-bar, 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 hit the minimize button. 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.
It’s mobile apps are nicely designed though and tend to be clutter-free. All options are listed neatly and connecting takes barely a few seconds, which is quite remarkable.
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.
There is not much difference in the server count. Where ExpressVPN offers 3,000+ 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. Meanwhile, PIA only offers servers in 30 countries, which is quite less.
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.
|VPN Protocols||PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN||PPTP, L2TP, IPSec, IKEv2, OpenVPN|
|OpenVPN Data Encryption||AES-256-CBC||AES-128, AES-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: PPTP, L2TP, and OpenVPN. Meanwhile, PIA adds more the list by supporting IKEv2 and IPSec protocols too.
The BVI-based provider uses the 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.
|Headquarters||British Virgin Islands||United States|
|Sign Up Information||Email Address||Email Address|
|Anonymous Payment Methods||Bitcoin and Mint||32 Cryptocurrencies|
One look at the table above and it becomes clear which provider is more secure. ExpressVPN has its headquarters in British Virgin Islands, while PIA is located in 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 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.
As far as anonymous payment methods are concerned, ExpressVPN only supports Bitcoin and Mint. PIA, on the other hand, offers the ability to sign up via 32 cryptocurrencies.
For configurations, both ExpressVPN and PIA utilize a shared network infrastructure. As a result, they can be considered equal in this aspect.
The lack of dedicated IPs is still quite alarming, considering that many VPN-users do have needs that require them to access local networks, while outside their home.
|Searchable Knowledge Base||Yes||Yes|
|Average Email Response Time||33 Minutes||45 Minutes|
|Live Chat Support||Yes (Outsourced)||Yes (Outsourced)|
Both PIA and ExpressVPN 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:
|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|
|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|
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.