A great VPN provider and one of the industry's leaders, Private Internet Access offers everything you need in a VPN. From a functional newly redesigned client and fast servers to a strict no logging policy and excellent security features, it all comes at a price that easily beats most competitors.
- Proven no logs provider
- Top-notch encryption and security
- Very affordable
- Good server speeds
- Excellent newly redesigned apps
- Allows torrenting and P2P
- Located in the US - not ideal for privacy
- Poor Netflix and BBC iPlayer support
PIA doesn’t seem to brag much about how fast its server network is. Looking over their site and marketing material, the only reference to speed is that they use Gigabit VPN ports.
Based on that, I assumed their performance would be pretty middle of the road. As it turns out, it isn’t. Both their download and upload speeds are impressive and certainly fast enough for just about any type of internet activity.
While my previous Private Internet Access speed test a few months back showed some significant slowdown in the US, Canada, and the Netherlands, that is no longer the case. Whatever the problems were, they have been resolved.
If I had to nitpick, the upload speeds in Canada and Australia could use some love. That said, considering it’s downloads that most of us care about, combined with the results still being north of 20 Mbps in both cases, it’s really not a huge deal.
Because this question tends to come up often, I’ll quickly explain that I intentionally run my speed tests with an internet connection that’s faster than what any VPN provider can currently do. Hence the large discrepancy in speeds between my VPN and no VPN tests.
By using a faster connection, I make sure we see the true maximum performance PIA’s servers can reach – not numbers capped by my internet plan.
The last thing worth mentioning is that the site’s homepage lists results from similar tests posted by several other high-speed providers. Please take a look if you’re curious how Private Internet Access stacks up against its competitors.
And now, without further ado…
About Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access has been around since August 2010. Based in Grandville, Michigan in the United States, PIA gets wide recognition as one of the top consumer VPN providers and as a service at the forefront of the market. Their commitment to user privacy and security is second to none, which is why companies like Forbes, MSN Money, PC World, Yahoo, and AT&T trust them with their business.
Privacy and Security
We can unequivocally state that our company has not and still does not maintain metadata logs regarding when a subscriber accesses the VPN service, how long a subscriber’s use was, and what IP address a subscriber originated from. Moreover, the encryption system does not allow us to view and thus log what IP addresses a subscriber is visiting or has visited.
Taking this approach does make things harder on PIA’s end when it comes to diagnosing their system and handling service abuse issues, but they opted to put their customer first. Very commendable.
The provider does just as well on the encryption front, offering a wide range of top-notch choices. They offer AES-128, AES-256, and Blowfish for data encryption, SHA1, and SHA256 for data authentication, and RSA-2048, RSA-3072, RSA-4096, ECC-256k1, ECC-256r1 and ECC-521 for handshaking. You can set things to be automatically selected for you, and if you don’t care about privacy and just want pure server speeds, you can also turn all these settings off.
The provider supports all operating systems and devices you can think of, including routers. It offers excellent step by step installation and troubleshooting instructions for each.
PPTP, IPSec/L2TP, and OpenVPN are the supported protocols. For those who are not too concerned about privacy and just want better Private Internet Access download speed and overall performance, the service subscription even includes SOCKS5 Proxy.
Streaming is where this VPN does not fare very well. Officially, they do not support bypassing geo-locked material, and it shows. With the exception of a handful of completely random servers (good luck finding them), PIA does not work with Netflix, Hulu, the BBC iPlayer, or any other popular online video service.
The client is very minimalistic and humble looking. That is fine by me since it’s also intuitive to use. It does what it’s supposed to do, does it well, and is not bloated with additional gimmicky features that ultimately just confuse.
Users of Private Internet Access are restricted to 10 simultaneous connections. This number is at the high end among providers and should be plenty. If you ever find you need more, you can always install the VPN on your router. PIA supports several models.
There are no bandwidth or time of day restrictions.
Several activities outlined in the Terms of Service (and listed below) are disallowed, and PIA does have a zero tolerance policy towards breaches. To stay on the safe side, it’s best to review these.
- Sending or receiving unsolicited and/or commercial emails in violation of law, promotional materials, “junk mail,” “spam,” “chain letters,” or “pyramid schemes”;
- Exploiting, possessing, producing, receiving, transporting, or distributing any illegal content, including but not limited to any sexually explicit depiction of children;
- Uploading, possessing, receiving, transporting, or distributing any copyrighted, trademark, or patented content which you do not own or lack written consent or a license from the copyright owner;
- Forging headers or otherwise manipulating e-mail identifiers in order to mask or mislead the origins of certain content;
- Interfering with the service to any other user, client, host or network which reduces the quality of service for other clients and users;
- Using the service to engage in Denial-of-service (“DOS”) attacks to any third-parties or to Privateinternetaccess;
- Accessing data, systems or networks including attempts to probe scan or test for vulnerabilities of a system or network or to breach security or authentication measures without written consent from the owner of the system or network;
- Using this service to transmit any material (by email, uploading, posting, or otherwise) that threatens or encourages bodily harm, injury or destruction of property, defames one or more third parties, or promotes any act of cruelty to animals; or
- Accessing the service to violate any laws at the local, state and federal level in the United States of America or the country/territory in which you reside.
The only way of getting in touch with PIA support is via a ticketing system. The listed average response time is 4-6 hours, and that is pretty much what I experienced. It would be nice to have a phone or live chat option. That said, the quality and knowledge of the support staff is excellent.
The website offers a very in-depth knowledge base that answers questions and provides guidance on everything from technical issues to payment. I found detailed, easy to follow pictorial set up guides for all platforms and protocols. These should be more than sufficient to get anyone up and running.
Private Internet Access has no free trial but does offer a 30 days money back guarantee. That guarantee does not appear to have any caveats attached to it, such as a maximum usage restrictions beyond which a refund will not be issued. This is nice to see as it allows you to evaluate the service thoroughly before committing. Not all VPN providers are this generous.
Though not as geographically diverse as some other VPN services, Private Internet Access has servers in more than enough countries to satisfy everyone’s needs. They currently offer 98 location in 77 countries. The impressive thing is that in those 77 countries, this provider has a massive 25224 servers. This much hardware gives them a lot of options when it comes to load balancing, ensuring the high performance I have seen in this PIA speed review. You’ll find the complete Private Internet Access server list here.