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Private Internet Access review: VPN service compared with other providers

Verified by Molly Dyson

Private Internet Access was founded in 2010, and was acquired by Kape Technologies, which also owns other popular VPN providers, such as ExpressVPN, CyberGhost and ZenMate, in 2019. The provider has speedy 10Gbps servers in 84 different locations, including all 50 US states – where it is headquartered. 

Private Internet Access offers the highest level of encryption – AES-256 – and adheres to a strict no-logs policy. Although it is headquartered in a country that is part of Five Eyes, its no-logs policy has been independently verified and the company says it takes the privacy of its users very seriously.

60-second review

Rating: ★★★★

Private Internet Access (PIA) offers subscribers an unlimited number of devices they can connect to its servers, as well as 500+ servers in 84 different countries, including servers in all 50 US states. PIA is headquartered in the United States, which is part of the Five Eyes – an international intelligence-sharing alliance. The provider’s strict no-logs policy has been independently verified, so its headquarters jurisdiction should not compromise privacy. 

Private Internet Access offers an abundance of security features, such as AES-256 encryption, split tunnelling, a kill switch and a dedicated IP as an optional extra. The provider is one of the best cheap VPNs on the market and offers a wide range of privacy tools that are user-friendly.

How we research and rate VPNs

100+
hours performance testing
600+
customer reviews read
100+
hours of research
25
competitors compared
4
VPN experts consulted

Our reviewers are dedicated to bringing you the most accurate and up-to-date information so you can make an informed decision when it comes to buying a VPN. We will only recommend a VPN after hours of testing, extensive head-to-head feature comparisons, and after taking into account verified customer feedback and reviews, and the opinions of industry experts.

Our review scores are determined by the following categories:

  • Privacy and performance (30 per cent)
  • Features and functionality (30 per cent)
  • Reputation and credibility (25 per cent)
  • Plans and pricing/value (10 per cent)
  • Customer experience (5 per cent)

We research and test a total of 25 elements within these categories, including:

  • Number and location of servers
  • Security features such as AES-256
  • Performance (upload and download speeds, latency)
  • Value for money, guarantees and customer service
  • Independent server-site security audits

All of our VPN articles are verified by our in-house team of fact-checkers, so you can be assured that our content is as accurate and up-to-date as possible. For more information about our methodology, read our article on how we review VPNs.

Private Internet Access overview

Pros

Unlimited number of connected devices AES-256 encryption Dedicated IP Good speedtest scores No-logs policy independently audited

Cons

Headquartered in the United States No free version

How does Private Internet Access compare?

Private Internet Access has 500+ servers in 84 different countries worldwide, including locations in all 50 US states. The provider used to offer connections for a maximum of 10 devices, but in early 2023 changed this to unlimited, which is better than most of its competitors and a great feature to have. 

PIA also offers a comprehensive list of features, including split tunnelling – which has different modes for users to choose from – three VPN protocols, the highest level of encryption and even a dedicated IP address as an optional extra. The provider’s pricing is fairly average for a monthly plan, but purchasing a two-year plan will see you paying the cheapest price per month, which is very competitive compared to other providers. 

One area where this provider falls short of its competitors is its server count, but its privacy features and customer service make this VPN service good value for money.

VPN provider Price Free version? Number of servers Maximum number of devices Netflix BBC iPlayer Disney+ Amazon HBO Max Audit?
Private Internet Access From £1.69/m No 500+ Unlimited Yes
ExpressVPN From £5.25/m No 3,000+ 5 Yes
NordVPN From £2.79/m No 5,500+ 6 Yes
Surfshark From £1.76/m No 3,200+ Unlimited Yes
CyberGhost From £1.92/m No 9,700+ 7 Yes

Some prices exclusive of VAT or local taxes. Prices correct as of 17/7/2023
Best alternative to
NordVPN is one of the most trusted VPN providers in the world, offering top-notch encryption, incredible speeds, and extra features to make all your online activities more secure.
4.5
Excellent Trustpilot rating
24/7 customer support
AES-256 encryption
VIEW PLANS At NordVPN

How much does Private Internet Access cost?

Private Internet Access offers a paid subscription with three payment options; monthly, six months, or a two-year plan – with the latter being the cheapest option. When signing up, users can purchase PIA’s dedicated IP as well as its anti-virus software for an extra fee. PIA also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on all of its plans so you can try it risk-free.

Subscription term Price
Monthly £10.99 ($14.40) / month
6 months £5.39 ($7.06) / month (£32.34/$42.38 up front)
24 months (+2 months free) £1.69 ($2.21) / month (£43.94/$57.58 up front for 26 months)

Prices may exclude VAT or local taxes. Prices correct as of 17/7/2023

Payment options

Private Internet Access allows customers to pay for any of its subscriptions using various payment methods, including Bitcoin – a form of anonymous digital payment. 

Ways to pay:

  • Credit card
  • PayPal
  • Bitcoin
Compare our top recommended providers
Best Overall
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Best Value
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Best All-rounder
3 months free on the 12 month plan
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Private Internet Access features

When choosing a VPN provider, it’s important to understand what features it offers and if those features are beneficial to you as the user. The most common reason people choose to subscribe to a VPN service is for privacy and security reasons. Private Internet Access has a strict no-logs policy, which has been independently verified, and users can benefit from the highest level of encryption – AES-256. Although the provider is headquartered in the United States, which is part of Five Eyes, the independent audit confirms the company logs no data, which should assure users that their data and IP addresses are secure and protected. 

Dedicated IP

Dedicated IP is one of Private Internet Access’s most interesting features. It’s available as an add-on when you purchase a plan, and will be customised just for you.  A dedicated IP is a unique IP address that only you have access to. It’s useful for users who want to protect their online identity but with minimal interruption. Users can choose from the US, Canada, Australia, or Germany for their server location and enjoy all of the same benefits that dynamic IP users can.

Server count and countries

Private Internet Access offers 500+ servers in 84 different locations worldwide. Its colocated, RAM-only servers have proven secure in third-party audits and protect the privacy of its users. Private Internet Access serves to provide users with the opportunity to connect to servers all over the world, covering Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and the Americas. Its widespread availability of server locations is ideal for anyone who wishes to protect their online identity. The variety of locations also ensures users should always have access to servers with fast speeds.

No-log policy and headquarters

Privacy is the most important feature VPN users are concerned with, and included in that is a provider’s no-log policy, which means none of your data or IP addresses are logged and stored. 

Private Internet Access says it adheres to a strict no-log policy, which never stores:  

  • IP addresses
  • Browsing history
  • VPN session stamps
  • Bandwidth consumption
  • DNS queries
  • Connection logs  

What’s more, Private Internet Access’s no-logs policy has been repeatedly confirmed in court, according to the provider. On more than one occasion, its data has been requested by authorities, but since the provider keeps no logs, Private Internet Access says it was not able to fulfil these requests. 

Private Internet Access is headquartered in the United States, which is a location that may concern the privacy-conscious. The United States is a part of The Five Eyes – an intelligence alliance also comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Countries that are part of this alliance are compelled to share intelligence and information with each other, which could include requesting user data from companies. 

Despite this, our researchers found the Private Internet Access website to be more than transparent. The company says it is committed to the privacy of its users and provides a semi-annual report containing details about recent data requests. The reports contain court orders, subpoenas and federal notices – all of which show no data was produced because Private Internet Access keeps no logs. In addition, the no-logs policy has been independently audited by Deloitte as recently as August 2022.

Kill switch

When connecting to a VPN, a significant amount of bandwidth is used, and sometimes this can cause your internet connection to drop. When this happens, your VPN will also disconnect, which means your real IP address and other sensitive information is now at risk of being exposed. 

This is where a kill switch kicks in, and is an extra layer of protection. A kill switch disconnects you from the internet when your VPN connection drops. Private Internet Access offers its kill switch as part of its service.

Split tunnelling

Split tunnelling is a feature that most VPN providers have, and it gives users control over what traffic they’d like to route through the VPN. The feature allows users to route some traffic through the secure tunnel while excluding the rest. This tool is especially handy when you’re using sites that are not so well trusted, or if you’re inputting sensitive information. 

Private Internet Access’s split tunnelling has two different variations – standard or inverse. 

Standard split tunnelling allows you to choose which apps, websites and IP addresses to run inside or outside the VPN. Inverse split tunnelling allows users to run everything through the VPN and select what to run outside of the tunnel –this is useful if you have more apps that require a secure connection than don’t.   

Private Internet Access also offers unique split tunnelling for Windows Store apps, Linux and DNS requests. 

  • Windows Store apps support: Add or remove Windows Store apps in the same way you would with any other app
  • Linux: Advanced split tunnelling for Linux allows you to choose whether all docker or VM packets run through the VPN or bypass it
  • DNS: Run all DNS requests through the VPN with one click – only available for Linux and Windows users

Encryption and privacy

A VPN encrypts all traffic coming from your device and conceals your real IP address. Like most other VPN providers we’ve reviewed, Private Internet Access uses the highest level of encryption, which is also used by governments to protect classified information. 

PIA gives users the choice of two ciphers – 128-bit or 256-bit AES encryption. Both of these have been proven to hide users’ IP addresses and protect all sensitive data. The provider also offers a choice of three protocols – OpenVPN, IKEv2 and Wireguard. 

Another privacy feature PIA offers is its proxy servers, ShadowSocks and SOCKS5 – these allow users to route their VPN connection through an additional server location, which further protects the origin of your connection. This is sometimes referred to as a multi-hop VPN.

Private Internet Access performance test results

As well as privacy features, it’s important to look for a VPN provider that can still offer a good level of speed for downloading and uploading. However, connecting to any VPN server has adverse effects on internet speeds, and this will vary between different providers. 

The best way to check how Private Internet Access affected our speed was to put it to the test. When performing an internet speed test, there are three main components to check with or without using a VPN: download speed, upload speed and latency (ping).

  • Download speed: Refers to the rate at which digital data is transferred from the internet to your device.
  • Upload speed: The rate that data is transferred from your device to the internet. 
  • Latency (ping): The time it takes for a set of data to be transmitted to a server on the internet and back to your device again. 

Our researchers tested Private Internet Access to determine how speed was affected when connected to one of the provider’s servers. In order to carry out a fair test, we first tested our internet speed when not connected to the VPN to establish a baseline to work out the degradation speeds for both upload and download. To conduct this research, our reviewers used the Ookla Speedtest.

Private Internet Access review speed test no VPN
Speed test result without Private Internet Access turned on. This is our base line. The numbers along the bottom of the image are the ping (latency) in milliseconds and the amount of data downloaded (green) and uploaded (purple) during the test, measured in megabytes.
Download speed (Mbps) Upload speed (Mbps) Latency (ping) Percentage of base download speed Percentage of base upload speed
No VPN 74.27 18.63 12ms
UK to UK 70.96 17.71 15ms 96% 95%
UK to US 70.8 16.76 89ms 95% 90%
UK to Aus 70.6 17.75 216ms 95% 95%

Overall, Private Internet Access VPN speeds were comparable to those recorded when not connected to the VPN. We would recommend PIA for users who’d like to use the service for streaming, gaming and file sharing since the download and upload speeds were never more than 10 per cent slower than a non-VPN connection.

Connecting to a UK server had minimal effects on our internet speed, with the download speed only 4 per cent slower and the upload speed 5 per cent slower. These results are ideal for users who want to conceal their real IP address for privacy reasons but don’t need to connect to a server outside the UK. 

Private Internet Access speed test UK to UK
Speed test result when connected to a Private Internet Access server in the UK.

PIA has servers in all 50 US states, so it was not surprising to see our internet speed was relatively the same as our non-VPN connection. The download speed was 5 per cent slower, and only 1 per cent slower than connecting to a UK server – which is quite impressive. The upload speed, however, was 10 per cent slower than our non-VPN connection – which is still good – and matches up to some of the top providers we have reviewed.

Private Internet Access speed test UK to US
Speed test result when connected to a Private Internet Access server in the US.

We were also impressed by the speed results when connecting to one of PIA’s Australian servers. Both the download and upload speeds were only 5 per cent slower than our non-VPN connection. However, our latency was 289ms, which means the time it took for data to be transmitted to the server and back to our device again was the highest out of all our tests performed. This makes sense geographically – since the Australian server is the farthest away, this is to be expected and something we have continuously noted in our other VPN reviews. 

Private Internet Access speed test UK to Australia
Speed test result when connected to a Private Internet Access server in Australia.

WebRTC leak test

Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) is a collection of standardised technologies that allows web browsers to directly communicate with each other without the need for an intermediate server. 

WebRTC is typically recognised for its ability to speed up and enhance video and audio chats, as well as data transfer. While it is a great tool for users who rely on video or audio chats, it does have the potential to leak your IP address – this is where your VPN service should protect you.  

Our researchers conducted a WebRTC leak test when connected to a Private Internet Access server and without connecting. Our leak tests when not connected showed there were potential leaks and our real IP address was exposed, meaning we  could be hacked by a third party. Thankfully, when connected to one of PIA’s servers, our leak tests showed there were no potential leaks and our real IP address was protected. The only information revealed was our PIA server IP address, which is not linked to our real geographical location.

Breaches and audits

With any company that claims to protect your sensitive data, it’s always reassuring to have this verified. Most VPN providers seek to independently audit their privacy claims, such as no-logs policies, and PIA is no exception to this. The company commissioned its first such audit in August 2022.. 

The provider has been audited by one of the big four firms – Deloitte – which has verified its policies. When Deloitte completed its audit, the findings showed PIA does not store data logs. 

As previously mentioned, Private Internet Access has, on more than one occasion, been requested to submit its user data by court orders, subpoenas and warrants. PIA’s strict no-log policy means there is no data to share, and the provider maintains full transparency surrounding this on its website.

Compatibility and apps

Private Internet Access has apps that work on the following computers and devices:

  • Computers: Windows, Linux, MacOS, and Chromebook
  • Mobile devices: Android and iOS
  • TV systems: Amazon Firestick, Android TV, Apple TV, Samsung TV, LG Smart
  • Game consoles: Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Playstation and Amazon Luna

Desktop app

Private Internet Access’ desktop app is compact, has a black background and can be opened in front of your browser tab, which makes it incredibly user-friendly. On the app interface, you can seamlessly switch between different server locations, and the latency is displayed next to each location. As well as this, there is a drop-down menu below the server location, which tells you the average download and upload speeds for the server you’re currently using. It’s these small details that set PIA apart from some of its competitors. 

Private Internet Access desktop app server list
The Private Internet Access desktop app includes a list of available servers, with their average latency detailed in green

Within the app’s settings, you can change protocols and choose between AES-256 and 168-bit encryption. You can also customise the settings so the app opens when you start your device, as well as set up your split tunnelling features. Unlike some other providers we’ve reviewed, there isn’t an option to create a specific profile, which is the only noticeable drawback here. 

Private Internet Access desktop app settings
The desktop app has a detailed settings menu to customise how you use the service

Mobile app 

Unlike the desktop app, the mobile version has a white background, which is much easier on the eye. There’s an option to quickly connect to a few locations – which are chosen by PIA – or you can quite easily select your preferred location. We weren’t sure if the mobile version would retain the speed features, but it does, which we were pleased about since it is such a handy tool. You’re able to see the latency for each server location and the download and upload speed of the server that you are currently connected to. 

The settings work much like the desktop version – users can switch between any one of PIA’s three protocols and switch up their encryption, too. On its VPN for iPhone, you can set up a Siri shortcut connection.

Router compatibility

VPNs can be installed on computers, mobile devices, game consoles, and for a more direct approach, routers. Configuring your router to run Private Internet Access will protect any devices that are connected to your home or office network. 

Advantages to configuring your router to run PIA:

  • Protect all of your devices 24/7
  • Protects devices that don’t support VPN apps
  • No need to set up your VPN on each device

Not all routers are able to support a VPN connection, so you’ll need to check that yours is compatible. You can either purchase a router that’s compatible and follow the steps for setting this up via PIA’s router set-up page, or you can opt for a FlashRouter. This device comes with a VPN app pre-installed and requires minimal set-up. All you’ll need to do is plug the router in and log in to connect.

Customer support

When it comes to customer support, Private Internet Access has multiple channels for its customers to communicate with it, as well as how-to guides for all its features.

In PIA’s support centre, users can check what others are saying in the VPN community. Here, you’ll find useful nuggets of information other users have questions about, as well as be able to ask your own questions. 

For urgent requests, there’s a live chat that is available 24/7. In just a few clicks, you can bypass the chatbot and speak to a human, who should be able to answer any questions you have. 

For non-urgent queries, there is also a support form users can fill out, which is similar to emailing. You can also drag and drop files into the form if you’d like to share specific screenshots, and one of PIA’s customer service personnel will email you back – this is the slowest form of communication, in our experience.

What do customers say?

Private Internet Access receives excellent customer reviews from Trustpilot, Apple App Store and Google Play Store. The provider has been praised by customers for retaining similar speeds to non-VPN connections, fair pricing and working on a variety of computers and devices. 

  • Trustpilot: 4.5 (9,063 reviews)
  • Apple App Store: 4.6 (10 reviews) 
  • Google Play Store: 4.5 (71,000 reviews)

“It’s easy to use, has a great price point and I haven’t noticed any meaningful difference in the speeds I normally use. Might not work as well for everyone, but it has worked awesome for me so far.”

“This is a great VPN that works flawlessly and effortlessly. [I] haven’t had a single issue with it since acquiring it and will continue to use it. I have it installed on multiple systems (a couple of Apple products, PCs, etc) without issue.”

“I’ve been using PIA VPN for just under a year now. I used to use NordVPN, but PIA is better in every way. It’s faster and more stable and I’ve never had an issue where it’s buffering or just stops access to the net completely. That used to happen quite a lot with Nord.

With PIA, I have everything I want protected – my iPad Pro, my iPhone 13 Pro Max and my MacBook Pro – protected. You can choose which server in which country you want to use and you can see which of them has the faster speed.”

“Just been using it for a few days and it seems reliable. Barely any loss in speed (5 – 8Mbps). Still learning the desktop version. This one has plenty of settings to work with. The platform has a very clear and informative help desk database. So far, I like the simplicity of the software in general, but at the same time, it offers enough options for those who are more advanced. I am already enjoying a few of the many features discovered, such as the automatic connection of the fastest server.”

Independent Advisor’s verdict

Private Internet Access offers 500+ servers in 84 different locations, including servers in all 50 US states. While it doesn’t offer the highest number of servers, it does offer connection to an unlimited number of devices per plan, which is better than most of its competitors. 

It also offers the highest level of encryption – AES-256 – and a choice of three different protocols, a kill switch and a dedicated IP as an optional extra. While the provider is headquartered in the United States – part of Five Eyes, an intelligence-sharing alliance – its no-logs policy has been independently verified by Deloitte.

We also found that connecting to any of PIA’s servers caused a minimal drop in download and upload speeds, so would be an ideal choice for streaming, gaming and file sharing. 

Overall, Private Internet Access is reasonably priced, especially if you sign up for a one- or three-year plan.  The provider offers a great level of privacy and security, and we found its apps to be relatively straightforward to use. This VPN is a great choice for users who require an advanced level of privacy.   

Overall score: ★★★★

Score breakdown

Reputation ★★★
Privacy ★★★½
Performance and features ★★★★½
Plans and pricing value ★★★★½
Customer experience ★★★★
Round up of today’s best VPN deals
NordVPN 2 year £2.49 /Month
£2.49 /Month
Surfshark 24 month £1.79 /Month
£1.79 /Month
ExpressVPN 12 month £6.77 /Month
£6.77 /Month
CyberGhost 2 year £1.78 /Month
£1.78 /Month
Proton 2 year £4.27 /Month
£4.27 /Month
PIA 2 year £1.57 /Month
£1.57 /Month
Atlas 2 year £1.34 /Month
£1.34 /Month
PrivadoVPN 2 year £1.99 /Month
£1.99 /Month
Windscribe 12 month £4.53 /Month
£4.53 /Month
IPVanish 2 year £3.58 /Month
£3.58 /Month

The data in this review is reported from a neutral stance and should be used for informational purposes only. We review VPN services from the perspective of:

  • The quality of the product based on the security it affords the user
  • User experience of the application(s)
  • Level and quality of customer service

Independent Advisor does not endorse the streaming of content from regions other than where the subscription is held, nor does it endorse the downloading or consumption of illegally pirated content.

rachel

Rachel Sadler

Home Tech Writer

Rachel is a seasoned writer who has been producing online and print content for seven years. 

As a home tech expert for Independent Advisor, Rachel researches and writes buying guides and reviews, helping consumers navigate the realms of broadband and home security gadgets. She also covers home tech for The Federation of Master Builders, where she reviews and tests home security devices. 

She started as a news and lifestyle journalist in Hong Kong reporting on island-wide news stories, food and drink and the city’s events. She’s written for editorial platforms Sassy Hong Kong, Localiiz and Bay Media. While in Hong Kong she attended PR events, interviewed local talent and project-managed photoshoots. 

Rachel holds a BA in English Language and Creative Writing and is committed to simplifying tech jargon and producing unbiased reviews.

Molly Dyson

Editor

After growing up with a passion for writing, Molly studied journalism and creative writing at university in her home country of the United States.

She has written for a variety of print and online publications, from small town newspapers to international magazines. Most of her 10-year career since relocating to the UK has been spent in business journalism, writing and editing for admin professionals at PA Life magazine and business travel managers at Business Travel News Europe and representing those titles at conferences around the world.

Now an Editor at the Independent Advisor, Molly is an expert in a broad range of consumer topics, that include solar panels and renewables, home improvements and home insurance, and consumer technology such as home security and VPNs.

In her free time, Molly can usually be found exploring the outdoors with her husband and their young son or gardening.