Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are online encryption tools that provide numerous benefits to the customers’ online experience. Among them are enhanced privacy and security, as well as the ability to unblock international websites and streaming services that would be blocked under normal circumstances.
The market is full of quality options when it comes to VPN service providers. We are talking about hundreds of different alternatives with varying price ranges and features. However, only a few make it to the list of the Best VPN Service Providers. Private Internet Access is one of them.
Shortened to PIA, Private Internet Access has a relatively small VPN server network when it comes to countries available for connection. However, PIA makes up for that with security features and offerings, excellent speed and performance, lots of customization, and a fantastic price.
PRICING & PLANS
While most of the best VPN service providers often exceed the $10 per month threshold, Private Internet Access VPN offers affordable prices in exchange for excellent service. The baseline monthly subscription is $6.95.
Better yet, the company offers great discounts on long-term plans. If you purchase a yearly plan, the price drops to $3.33/month, while the price drops even lower if the customer signs up for two years, to $2.91/month. Private Internet Access doesn’t offer a lifetime subscription at the moment.
Customers have numerous payment methods available, starting with all the major credit cards (Visa, American Express, and Master Card), Bitcoin, Zcash, Bitcoin Cash, Ripple, Cashu, PayPal, OKPay, PaymentWall, Mint, AmazonPay, and more.
Private Internet Access, as you can see, is one of the few VPN service providers that have fostered an excellent atmosphere for cryptocurrency payments, keeping up with changing times and financial trends.
PRIVACY & LOG POLICY
Regarding logging gathering, the company states: “PrivateInternetAccess.com does not collect or log any traffic or use of its Virtual Private Network (‘VPN’) or Proxy.” For more details, go to their Support section.
The company says that it “does not keep any logs, of any kind, period.” It continues: “We can unequivocally state that our company has not and still does not maintain metadata logs regard-ing 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.”
However, for a variety of reasons that don’t at all compromise the users’ data security, Private Internet Access keeps some small bits of data. “We record basic personal details (email, payment info) but don’t share them.” “Please don’t use our service to do illegal stuff.”
The company operates under American jurisdiction in Denver, Colorado. That may mean that Private Internet Access VPN is subject to warrants and letters issued by the government, but the company’s track record suggests that there is nothing to worry about when it comes to compliance with data retention laws of any kind.
As for encryption, PIA’s service is very solid. It is, by default, set with AES 128-bit, but it can be boosted to 256-bit with ease. Data authentication is SHA-1 or SHA-256, while handshakes are set up with RSA-2048 public-key encryption, with the ability to increase it to RSA-4096. Private Internet Access is an excellent, highly customizable service.
One of the features that people look at the most when searching for the best VPN service is the server network. The phrase refers to the number of servers available for connection, as well as the number of countries that have servers.
This is one of the few drawbacks of the PIA service. When it comes to the number of servers, Private Internet Access excels with more than 3,300+ a comfortably above-average figure.
However, only 30 countries are available for connection, which is relatively low in comparison to other top VPN providers. Some of them have more than 50 (for example, ExpressVPN 90+ ), while other approach or surpass a hundred (HideMyAss VPN offers 190+ countries).
The company is, however, continually working to broaden its server network. New servers and countries were added as recently as June 2018. Slowly, but surely, Private Internet Access is looking to close the gap in this department.
You would be surprised how good Private Internet Access VPN’s speed is for a $6.95 service. In fact, it can compete with the best, mainly because it is among the elite. The speed tests conducted in 2018 show very favorable results.
PIA’s servers are fast and reliable. The speed rates were among the best in several locations, especially the Americas and Europe. Private Internet Access VPN performed superbly in connection time, upload and download time. Streaming is a piece of cake thanks to the comfortably above-average rates.
It takes about 3.5 seconds to establish a secure link, which is among the best times in the industry. That can be attributed to the huge amount of servers (more than 3,300) that it has available.
Private Internet Access’ latency is more average-ish, but also not bad at all. Its bandwidth, on the other hand, helped deliver a nearly 50 Mbps download speed, and 15 Mbps upload speed.
A definite weakness is Private Internet Access’s inability to stream the BBC iPlayer, which affects its performance ratings. The online streaming service has successfully blocked the VPN brand. However, users should find comfort knowing that Private Internet Access VPN doesn’t have notorious problems with IP or DNS leaks.
PROTOCOL & ENCRYPTION
Multi-protocol availability is a must in the VPN industry these days. The once reliable Peer to Peer Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is now being left behind and replaced with newer, faster, safer, and more efficient technologies.
Private Internet Access understands the importance of having a complete set of encryption protocols available for its customers. It has, in addition to PPTP (which is still recommended for many tasks and activities), the best standard in the market, which is OpenVPN.
On top of that, Private Internet Access VPN can offer Layer to Tunneling Protocol with Internet Protocol Security (L2TP/IPSec). Each of them can be used without (or with, for that matter) PIA’s client software.
The L2TP/IPSec protocol is supported by Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Chrome OS devices in a “native” configuration. Windows also has native PPTP, while Chrome OS’s native protocol is OpenVPN.
Despite its low prices, Private Internet Access VPN has numerous great features to offer its customers. When it comes to security traits, the company provides built-in DNS leak protection to avoid your identity from being spotted online when you browse the web. On top of that, a kill switch can effectively disable your Internet connection in the event of any problems with your Internet connectivity. That way, Private Internet Access VPN will prevent your computer from sharing unencrypted traffic.
Additionally, Private Internet Access has a built-in Socket Secure (SOCKS5) proxy, various encryption protocols, an auto-connect feature, port forwarding, a selection of the best servers available, and compatibility with platforms such as iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, Linux, and Chrome.
Private Internet Access VPN allows five simultaneous connections as well as P2P torrenting. There is also a built-in ad blocker, as well as trackers, and checks for malicious sites.
With a PIA’s secure VPN account, users will also have encrypted Wi-Fi, multiple VPN gateways, unlimited bandwidth, instant setup, and one of the most secure VPNs in the industry.
EASE OF USE
The website has been lauded within the industry for its ease of navigation and attractive design. You can change the language in which you want to see the presentation, and it doesn’t hide potentially dangerous details.
Private Internet Access VPN has numerous links and information available on the front page. You can learn more about the latest developments in the data security on their blog. It publishes news about online privacy and the VPN industry. It is a useful resource that both subscribers and non-members can enjoy. The FAQ section, which includes video tutorials, is also extraordinarily complete and contributes to PIA’s ease of use.
The proof that the service is very user-friendly is that it often takes no more than three minutes to successfully download the client or app and establish the connection to one of the VPN servers.
Private Internet Access, like most of the best VPN service providers, has client software for the most widely spread platforms and operating systems around, such as Windows PCs (Version 7 or newer), Macs (OS X 10.8 or newer) and some Linux distributions (Ubuntu, Mint, Arch and Debian, for instance). Private Internet Access VPN apps cover iPhones and iPads (iOS 8.0 or newer) and Android devices (Android 4.0.4 or newer).
There are extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera web browsers, showing that the company works to enhance their multi-platform encryption and protection.
PIA also provides clear and concise instructions for installing and running the VPN service on routers with pfSense open-source software, DD-WRT or Tomato.
The website itself is a fantastic customer support tool, as it has all the necessary guides, manuals, and video tutorials about the Private Internet Access VPN set up and its features. However, if you have any issues that the aforementioned material doesn’t cover, there is no 24/7 helpdesk, which is why PIA hasn’t quite cracked a top three spot in users’ preferences.
One of the aspects that Private Internet Access lacks is a live chat feature, which is a must these days, as users may have urgent issues that need immediate attention.
The FAQ blog somewhat makes up for the lack of live chat. The customer staff itself functions via a ticket system and promises (and more often than not, delivers) to respond within the next six hours.
Click here to learn How to Install Private Internet Access VPN.
Unfortunately, Private Internet Access VPN does not offer a free trial in any of its packages.
However, PIA does offer users the possibility of a refund if they are not satisfied with the service. After a week of use, unsatisfied customers can use the 7-day money-back guarantee policy.
It is not a month-long, or even a 15-day refund policy such as many of the best VPN service providers have, but it is another resource for PIA users. It comes with no tricky conditions, too.
One of the most notable shortcomings of the service offered by PIA is the lack of a live chat feature. The company does a great job making up for it with an efficient ticket system and a myriad of guides, manuals, and video tutorials on the website, but the opportunity to talk to a help agent in real-time is something that every best VPN needs to have.
Customers need to use randomly assigned usernames, and there are no free plans or trials to speak of. The service doesn’t work with the BBC iPlayer, which is one of the most popular streaming platforms on the planet. Netflix is currently blocking most of the PIA’s IP addresses, making it almost impossible for users to watch it.
Additionally, Private Internet Access is based in the United States. This is a little bit tricky since it doesn’t automatically represent a negative aspect. However, it is far from a positive, no matter how the company sells it.
In conclusion, Private Internet Access VPN has a few shortcomings, most notably the lack of a live chat feature and a low number of countries available for connection.
However, it has an extensive server network with more than 3,300 servers, it fosters P2P activity, and keeps absolutely no logs of users’ activity.
The speed rates and performance are dynamic, too. Prices start from $2.91, which makes it one of the best VPN services on the market.