Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN Review 2022
PIA is pretty well known in the VPN industry – it offers its services at a very cheap price of just (enter price). But can it be trusted? Is it better than the other VPN giants out there in terms of speed and security? Let’s take a good look at PIA and its services to see if it’s really all that.
PIA – Overview
Private Internet Access was founded in 2010 – based in the United States. It has since then accumulated over 30,000 servers in 78 countries – and the number just keeps growing. It is quite well-known in the VPN industry due to its pricing – which may just be the cheapest amongst all big-time VPN service providers.
It uses the military-grade AES-256 bit encryption standard, as well as powerful protocols like OpenVPN and WireGuard. It also offers its NextGen server network for a fast, seamless streaming experience with unlimited bandwidth.
PIA also offers multiple features like Kill Switch and Split Tunneling that makes the VPN experience a lot more secure and faster. We’ll be reviewing PIA based on many different factors that decide whether a VPN is reliable or not. Let’s begin.
Privacy & Security Review
Privacy & Security are two of the main qualities people look for in a good VPN. The whole point of using a VPN is to be digitally secure and anonymous. Let’s take a look at everything PIA has to offer in terms of security and privacy – from its encryption to its features.
A VPN that can be trusted is expected to have two essential qualities.
While PIA does state that it may disclose the collected personal data to its subsidiaries, it also mentions the data collected, shared, and the name of its subsidiaries.
PIA also adds that even if the law enforcement agencies subpoena them, they cannot share any important data as it was never stored. This can be seen in their “Transparency Report” which is regularly updated.
Overall, PIA seems to respect the privacy of the people. However, PIA would be more reliable if it were independently audited and located outside of the Five Eyes Alliance.
The golden encryption standard is said to be the AES-256 cipher, which is secure enough to be used by the NSA to protect top-secret documents. PIA does offer AES-256, but it also offers a lot more than AES-256. Here’s a list of all the PIA encryptions available.
- AES-128 (CBC)
- AES-128 (GCM)
- AES-256 (CBC)
- AES-256 (GCM)
While there are differences between all encryption methods, the main difference between AES-128 and AES-256 is that the latter is more secure – even though they are both impenetrable under a brute-force attack. Similarly, CBC and GCM differ in speed and security – GCM is faster, more secure, and newer than CBC.
RSA-2048 and RSA-4096 are offered for maximum security. These encryption ciphers also have not been broken, and are very secure. You can use RSA over AES, though you may experience slower speeds. Every encryption standard offers differences in speed, security, and utility.
By default, PIA is set to AES-128 – which is the least secure among all the other encryption methods. The good part is that PIA allows you to change your encryption with ease in the “Connections” tab. Aside from the encryption, PIA also offers you the choice between SHA1 and SHA2 hashing algorithms – with SHA2 being the stronger one.
You also have the option to disable encryption completely – though your credentials and IP will still be hidden. This is usually done to maximize speeds for streaming or gaming. Only use this feature when speed is required more than security.
Put simply, Protocols are a set of instructions that decide how your data is routed from your device to the VPN server. Different protocols mean different methods of routing your data, which also means differences in speed and security. A good VPN always has multiple protocols available so the user can switch based on their needs – more speed or more security.
PIA may not have an extensive offering of protocols, but it does offer you the three main protocols suited for all purposes – WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2/IPSec.
WireGuard is a relatively new open-source protocol that is still considered a work-in-progress. However, it is one of the fastest protocols out there. It only has around 4,000 lines of code – meaning less processing time and faster speeds.
OpenVPN is probably the most popular protocol out there. It is open-sourced and allows access to its code to the community to ensure no security flaws. Thanks to this, it has been widely audited and trusted by the community. It can be switched for faster speeds (UDP) or stronger security (TCP).
This tunneling protocol is currently only available on the iOS PIA application. IKEv2 is very hard to audit due to its licensing terms, but it is very reliable as a protocol for mobile users. Many major VPN service providers use IKEv2/IPSec on both Android and iOS.
NextGen Server Network
PIA also offers a fleet of its NextGen servers. These NextGen servers run on RAM instead of a hard drive. RAM is unable to store data, and its data is wiped clean with every reboot. This means that all of your browsing activity is unable to be stored on any NextGen server. Anything that is stored will be wiped clean with every reboot of the NextGen server.
Since all of your data is encrypted, the implementation of the NextGen server only adds another layer of security for its users.
Every good VPN has a kill switch for security reasons. If your VPN connection suddenly gets disconnected, your real IP address gets revealed. To prevent that, PIA will automatically disconnect you from the internet to keep your identity hidden. This also prevents any sort of data leak when you get abruptly disconnected from the VPN.
PIA definitely provides both privacy and security. However, it would have been better if it were based outside of the Five Eyes Alliance, and had its no-logs policy independently audited.
PIA – Privacy & Security Rating: 8/10
Speed is often sought after, especially when using VPNs. You’ll find that most average VPNs slow down your internet speed – lots of lag and buffering is involved when gaming/streaming. How well does PIA fare in terms of speed? We already know that it has its NextGen servers and protocols for high speeds, but do they perform well?
PIA offers good speeds overall, though it could definitely be better. While most average VPNs slow down your internet speed by over 50%, you’ll find that it won’t be the case if you use PIA. The minimum expected loss is around 15% to 30%.
Other high-end VPN providers have similar loss rates. Not to mention, protocols also affect speeds. While some may assume that less security = more speed, that’s not really true. Using OpenVPN (UDP) on Secure Settings may give you higher speeds on PIA than Default settings.
Good speeds are a must if you’re using a VPN to stream, and PIA fares pretty well in this aspect. It bypasses most of the geo-blocks and VPN-blockers that are set on major streaming platforms. Using Netflix and accessing content from different parts of the well can be done with ease.
The streaming speeds of PIA were fairly decent. There will be minimal or no buffering, and your overall experience will be pretty satisfactory. Let’s also not forget that your streaming speeds are faster when you are on a server closer to you.
PIA also supports torrenting and offers good speeds while doing so. All of its servers support torrenting and P2P transfers. It also has an integrated SOCKS5 proxy and ShadowSocks to reroute your traffic for additional protection. In terms of torrenting speeds, you can expect better results than most torrenting VPNs out there – it is pretty fast.
All in all, PIA offers decent speeds in general and for streaming. It does offer better torrenting speeds, though.
PIA – Speed Rating : 8/10
Server & Location Review
Having more locations means having more access to the content within those locations. A good VPN has great location coverage so all content can be accessed throughout the world. PIA does not let you down when it comes to its server & location coverage.
With 30,000+ servers across 78 countries, PIA is one of the top VPNs in terms of location coverage. For any location that you want to access, there’s bound to be a server that is closer to you. A server in every continent in the world means you can travel to any of them – digitally.
Private Internet Access also offers virtual servers in countries they can’t physically keep a server in. This mainly occurs due to the laws and regulations of such countries. For example. the Russian servers are not really located in Russia – they’re in Estonia.
Connecting to the Russian servers will make it appear as though you’re using the internet from Russia, hence allowing you to access Russian content that is geo-blocked. While virtual servers may not be as quick as physical servers, they get the job done.
PIA – Servers & Locations Rating : 10/10
PIA also offers multiple features that help its users in one way or another. Aside from its NextGen and Kill Switch which we discussed earlier, here are some more features that you get access to with PIA.
Dedicated IP Address
PIA offers dedicated IP addresses to its users for an additional fee. This IP address changes every time the user logs on. It is helpful for those working from home or running small businesses. While Shared IP addresses are better for security reasons, dedicated IP addresses ensure that you do not get banned for someone else’s actions. You can also switch from dedicated to shared whenever you want.
Split Tunneling allows you to exclude applications from using the VPN. For example, you can turn off the VPN access for a game that you play, and it won’t connect through the VPN. Alternatively, you can also allow applications to run on a VPN.
This is helpful when you want to access a blocked website but also do not want to use a VPN on other applications and vice-versa. You can use online banking on one browser while also browsing privately through a VPN on another browser.
PIA also offers VPN routers or Corporate VPNs to small businesses looking for VPNs. It provides Advanced Split Tunneling where you can exclude one or more specific devices from your organization’s VPN connections. This allows the owner to have control over all connected traffic., and configuring devices.
PIA also supports Port Forwarding – a feature that helps you connect to a remote device. However, the US servers of PIA do not support port forwarding. The other downside to port forwarding is that the forwarded port is assigned to you randomly – meaning you have to configure your network to forward that port as well. The good part is that it is very customizable, allowing you to run your own scripts.
It has an ad blocker called MACE that rejects all ads and pop-ups on a DNS level. You can enjoy ad-free browsing and even ad-free streaming on youtube or any other platform. MACE also blocks all trackers to keep you safe from third parties looking to target you with ads.
It allows the use of a proxy. It helps when you want to redirect your VPN connection through another location for double the security and anonymity. It is easy to configure as well – simply heading to the Proxy tab and selecting SOCKS5 or ShadowSocks will do the trick.
It offers a chrome extension which is helpful even if you’ve got the application. It has additional features that ensure your safety. It can deny websites access to your camera, microphone, and location from websites that do not ask for permission. It also disables your credit card and addresses auto-fill to keep you safe.
It also provides 24/7 customer support to all users. They also have multiple guides on their help center and a community forum. Most agents are knowledgeable and informed on their work, as well as polite. You can also submit a support ticket for any issues that you may have.
PIA offers plenty of features and benefits that are helpful to its customers for security, privacy, and utility.
PIA – Features Rating : 10/10
User-friendly applications for VPN are a must. Navigating through the features and configuring settings should be easy on a VPN application – even for those that are not well-versed with VPNs. Currently, PIA offers its services on the following devices.
Luckily, all of It’s applications are very user-friendly and easy to navigate. There are light and dark themes available, and the installation process for all applications is fairly smooth and easy. However, some may feel that PIA is built for advanced users due to the features they offer – configuring, customizing, and the like.
Overall, PIA is very easy to use even for a new VPN user.
PIA – Applications Rating : 10/10
PIA is very economical in its rates. It’s probably the cheapest high-end VPN on the market right now. There are many different offers provided throughout the seasons. Let’s take a look at the current pricing of PIA.
The pricing system of PIA is quite simple. You pay a total based on the plan duration that you purchase. This is generally a one-time payment. You pay upfront for the subscription and enjoy PIA and its features for the duration. While there is no free trial, you get a 30-day money-back guarantee on every plan.
For all the services and features that PIA provides, $2.03 per month is definitely a steal. Naturally, you pay the most for the one-month plan, and using a VPN is generally an investment – the privacy and security provided is something that you will be needing long-term.
PIA accepts PayPal, credit cards, Amazon Pay, and even cryptocurrencies. In terms of pricing, PIA beats pretty much every VPN out there.
PIA – Pricing Rating : 10/10
PIA is a great VPN – especially for its price. It could definitely do a lot better on the speed aspect, but that hasn’t stopped Forbes from ranking it as the Best VPN of Sept 2022. This is simply because PIA offers an array of features and services while also being trusted and reliable. A large fleet of over 30,000 servers throughout the world is definitely impressive.
- No Data Logging
- Military Grade Encryption
- Fastest Protocols
- NextGen Servers
- Virtual Servers
- Kill Switch and Split Tunneling
- Unblocks Netflix, Hulu, etc.
- Supports Torrenting
- Based in the US – Under Five Eyes Alliance
- Transparency Report Not Detailed
- Not Independently Audited
- Speed could be better
If your primary need is speed, ExpressVPN is one of the fastest out there. It’s not like PIA does not offer speeds, it does offer good speed. However, it’s just not as fast as ExpressVPN.