Private Internet Access (PIA) is a genuinely reliable VPN provider, with speeds ranging from blistering to fast enough and a reputation for security that was only boosted when its no-logging policy was put to the test as a result of legal action. It’s remarkably inexpensive and its only real flaw is its limited streaming support.
- Quick European transfer speeds
- Wide range of privacy and security features
- Clear no-logging policy, demonstrated in court
- Detected by most streaming services
- Review Price: £30.25
- Connect up to 10 devices
- Supports OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPSec
- Clients for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS
- UK pricing: £7.54 per month, £27.23 per six months, £30.25 per year
- US pricing: $9.95 per month, $35.95 per six months, $39.95 per year
- Clear information on connecting other devices without dedicated clients
PIA is also competing heavily on price at the moment, which makes it one of the most competitive VPN providers around.
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Private Internet Access – Features and usability
PIA has a clear and explicit no-logging policy, and the US doesn’t currently have any mandatory data retention laws in place. When served with an FBI warrant to hand over VPN logs, PIA didn’t have anything to give investigators, making it one of the few VPN providers whose no-logging claim is known to have been tested.
There are graphical clients for Windows, Linux and macOS, and detailed instructions are provided for setting up connections on other operating systems and devices.
PIA’s Windows desktop app has all the advanced configuration options you’re likely to need, but is simple enough to get a handle on easily, even for novices. A single button allows you to connect to the last VPN server you used, displayed below, with an arrow that takes you to a full, searchable list of endpoint locations. This displays their current latency and allows you to add favourites.
A separate settings window lets you configure the client’s behaviour, allowing actions such as launching on system start-up and connecting automatically. You can even switch between the client’s default dark theme and a lighter colour palette.
There’s a VPN kill switch that can be set to automatically cut off all internet traffic if the VPN is disconnected, the PIA MACE tool that blocks ad trackers, custom DNS, port forwarding on endpoints that support it, an option to block LAN traffic and an extremely flexible range of customisable settings for your VPN connection, including your preferred encryption settings.
Private Internet Access – Performance
|Private Internet Access HTTP||93.44Mbps||102.08Mbps||26.64Mbps|
|Private Internet Access FTP||157.47Mbps||123.05Mbps||10.63Mbps|
By comparison, average HTTP download speeds for the entire January 2020 VPN group test, measured from a test system in the UK with a high-speed fibre connection, were 81.41Mbps from UK endpoints, 89.42Mbps for the Netherlands and 43.02Mbps from the US.
Private Internet Access has a good range of 29 endpoint countries and over 3000 servers, and was one of the top performers in this month’s European speed tests, continuing a trend of well-above-average performances. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for its UK-to-US connections this time around: 27Mbps is sufficient for multimedia browsing and passive streaming, but put it in the bottom four of US endpoints. I hope to see an improvement on this in the next round of testing.
Streaming has never been PIA’s strong suit, and you can’t always rely on it provide access to seriously geo-locked services, but I was pleased to find that Netflix in the US worked well for me this time around. No such luck with All 4 and iPlayer in the UK, but less seriously locked content from Shudder and YouTube worked well as usual.
Related: What is a VPN?
Should you buy Private Internet Access?
PIA’s proven track record on privacy is perhaps the most compelling reason to use the service. While it’s not alone in having had its no-logging policy tested as a result of legal action, PIA is currently perhaps the cheapest privacy-focused consumer VPN provider, thanks to an ongoing price cut.
Currently, subscriptions will cost you a conspicuously cheap £7.54 per month – month-to-month pricing has gone up a little, £27.23 every six months, and £30.25 per year, which works out at £2.70 a month. If you don’t want your name associated with your subscription, you can pay using bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Zcash and some gift cards.
It provides plenty of security and advanced settings, support for less common operating systems like Linux, and guidance on using the service with your router and other network appliances.
Private Internet Access is among our favourite VPN providers. Although it’s not brilliant for video streaming and its US connection speeds are slower than we’d like, it’s generally fast, cheap and secure. Alongside ExpressVPN and Perfect Privacy, it’s also one of the few services whose no-logging policy has been scrutinised as a result of legal action. If you’re seriously into streaming, though, NordVPN is a good choice despite a recently disclosed security breach, and ExpressVPN is expensive but a great all-rounder.
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