Private Internet Access Review

Private Internet Access Review

Private Internet Access VPN got glowing reviews in outlets such as PCMag.com, praising its affordability and privacy protections. Founded in 2010, with corporate offices set in Colorado, US, Private Internet Access maintains a live transparency report on the website, showing how many court orders, subpoenas and warrants for user data they received within 6 months.

Features

  • Supports Bitcoin and gift card payments
  • 3,392 servers in 32 countries
  • Ad blocking
  • P2P file sharing
  • Live transparency report
  • Compatible with 39 operating systems, including Linux and Android
  • OpenVPN, PPTP & IPSEC/L2TP
  • No traffic or request logs
  • SOCKS5 proxy included
  • Unmetered VPN transfer
  • DD-WRT VPN compatible

Privacy

Private Internet Access is under US jurisdiction, receiving 23 data requests from the US government between June 2018 and August 2019, but could only provide an e-mail address, as shown by the “Transparency Report” section on the company’s website. Though ISPs are allowed to profit from user data, Private Internet Access neither keeps user logs nor profits off of insights into user behavior, with the only source of income being subscriptions. Private Internet Access is one of the few companies that go through the trouble of publicly displaying the number of data requests.

Private Internet Access is GDPR-compliant, processing only user’s e-mail address, payment information and temporary cookies related to affiliates and control panel logins. Upon registration at Private Internet Access website, the only data kept is date and time of registration, with users not having to provide or verify any personally identifiable data, such as birth date or address. The user who does provide such data can modify or delete it at any time or request a full transparency report by contacting the company’s Data Protection Officer. No data is shared with third-party companies because there is no data to share.

Company’s legal team will scrutinize and fight against any legal request for user data. If the company considers the request unconstitutional, it will outright refuse to supply any data. When applicable, Private Internet Access will allow the user in question to object to any disclosures.

Compatibility

VPNs typically run the whole gamut of platforms and Private Internet Access is no exception. Supported platforms include:

  • Windows
  • Linux
  • iOS
  • Android
  • macOS
  • Xbox

Private Internet Access can handle plenty of platforms but if you’re willing to compile your own client, you can do that as well. Some parts of the Private Internet Access application are still precompiled but the company promised to make those open source as well.

Private Internet Access features Firefox and Chrome extensions. Both extensions offer WebRTC blocking, gateway latency sorting, website URL whitelisting and an easy toggle switch. The extension cloaks user’s IP, changing it to one out of 45 locations in 28 countries. Chrome extension users report it not being updated in a timely manner, leading to compatibility problems with many websites.

Support

One of the attributes of Private Internet Access is the 24/7 tech support, mainly through support tickets. From May 2018, Private Internet Access retains all support tickets for 60 days after they have been resolved; after that, they are deleted permanently. Support questions we asked were answered promptly and precisely.

Private Internet Access knowledge base features 163 articles with information, such as how to pay with Bitcoin and how to add antivirus exclusions to Avast. You can find installation instructions for platforms and routers in there too. R/PrivateInternetAccess is a subreddit where the company support staff answers questions and directs users on how to submit a ticket. On Twitter, send a message to @piacsm.

We tested the support responsiveness and we got our questions answered fast. Getting a refund was easy and the support agent handled the request fast and with no hassles.

Installation and app usage

Installation on all platforms is quick and painless. The most common complaints are conflicts with the router firewall, which aren’t present when using Private Internet Access desktop application. Users also don’t like the application user interface sometimes stubbornly resisting what they’re trying to do. One thing I personally found annoying is that you can`t move the app around on your desktop, it`s stuck in the bottom right corner of your screen. Why this is so I don`t really understand.

The desktop application offers VPN killswitch with three settings: Off, Auto and Always. The killswitch blocks any internet traffic that doesn’t go through the Private Internet Access VPN, with a checkbox to always allow LAN traffic. Another cool option is PIA MACE, letting you block ad, malware, and tracker server requests.

L2TP+PSK (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol with Pre-shared Key) and PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) are supported on all Private Internet Access gateways, while SOCKS5 is only supported on Netherlands server. You will need a special “x” username, which is gotten by accessing your Private Internet Access control panel, scrolling to the bottom of the page and generating the “x” username alongside the needed password.

Security and speed

Private Internet Access is among the fastest VPNs we’ve tested, which is why we’re giving it top scores for connection time, speed and responsiveness. Connections were always reliable and consistent, even when connected to servers on the other side of the world, though speeds were understandably lower.

On average, download speeds were about 30% lower with Private Internet Access than without it. With over 3,000 servers all around the world, you won’t have any trouble finding just the right server for you.

Private Internet Access is praised as a market leader with security features such as:

  • Support for AES-128 and AES-256 encryption in GCM and CBC variants
  • UDP and TCP support
  • Port forwarding
  • PIA DNS, existing DNS, handshake or defining a custom DNS
  • IPV6 Leak blocking
  • DNS leak protection
  • VPN kill switch

The AES-256 encryption protocol is a 256-bit cipher that encrypts the plaintext input 14 times to produce unintelligible content that is considered impervious to eavesdropping and hacking.

Netflix and torrenting

Private Internet Access allows you to use any streaming service that relies on geo-blocking, including Hulu, Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Spotify and others. Using Private Internet Access, you can also browse social media in a country that banned it. For people living in high-censorship areas, that’s a lifesaver.

Torrenting is allowed as part of the package since Private Internet Access doesn’t see where you’re going with your traffic and what you’re doing at the destination. Because you’re guaranteed unlimited bandwidth, you will definitely have a solid torrenting experience. All servers are optimized for torrenting, so there’s no need to limit yourself to just a couple of dedicated ones.

Speed test

As with all other speed tests on VPNselector.com, the tests are based from Estonia with the closest servers we usually test in Finland and Denmark and the further away in US (both East and West coast) and one server in Hong Kong. Results will be very different if you run them from USA for example.

The speed tests showed nice and consistent speeds on par with what you would expect. The time to connect to servers was noticeably fast – even for servers across the world which was really nice to see. The Auto Connect feature chose the nearest possible server in Finland and the speeds had just a tiny drop of 8 and 4 percent for downloads and uploads. We have seen better results from just a few other VPNs (like NordVPN).

Auto Connect to Finland

The Denmark server test was pretty ok, around a consistent 20-25% drop in downloads with best results peaking at 15%. Upload speeds averaged out around 10% which was a surprisingly good result.

Private Internet Access Denmark server test

The US east coast test (NY server) was also impressed with just a 21% drop in download speeds. Keep in mind this is 4100 miles away from the location of the test. The other US test, to the server in California (west coast), had a more average result that you would expect – a drop of 67% and 88% in download and upload speeds.

New York server
California server

Singapore server test was obviously slow dropping 80% but that is expected and not very different from other VPNs

Torrenting had no issues and the usual drop from maximum speeds of around 8Mbps went down to 2.5 – 3Mbps.

Pricing

Private Internet Access offers three pricing models:

  • Monthly at $6.95 a month
  • Biannual at $5.99 a month
  • Yearly at $3.33 a month

Pros and cons

Pros
  • Privacy-focused
  • 3,300 servers
  • Supports many platforms
  • Diverse payment options
  • Open source desktop client
  • All servers are P2P optimized
  • Fast connections to servers
Cons
  • No free version
  • Browser extensions aren’t updated in time
  • May be fiddly to use

Verdict

Private Internet Access VPN is the best for technically proficient, power users. If you’re the kind of geek who won’t shy away from personally compiling an application and want to support a company that’s constantly setting the bar higher in terms of transparency and security, look no further than Private Internet Access. Plenty of servers around the world and a competitive pricing plan makes it a top choice. It fully supports torrents and Netflix if this is what is most important for you and although it’s based in US Private Internet Access is extremely transparent in how they handle user privacy and even disclose how many data requests they get and how many they deny from government agencies.

VPN feature comparison Private Internet Access TunnelBear NordVPN
Jurisdiction US Canada/US Panama
Independent audit No Yes Yes
Cheapest plan $3.33/month $4.17/month $2.99/month
Netflix compatible Yes No Yes
Dedicated torrent P2P servers Yes No No

Privacy features
Security
Speed
Ease of Use
Price
Average

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