It’s impossible to overlook Private Internet Access (https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/) when it comes choosing a secure VPN service provider. Most mainstream VPN service providers offer quite comparable VPN services, and there is not much to choose from in terms of pricing and performance differentiation.
On the other hand, Private Internet Access claims to offer the most comprehensive and extensive set of VPN features, without paying a premium. Simply put, Private Internet Access offers the cheapest VPN service by far, and at $3.33 per month for the annual subscription package, it is now up to us to determine whether the VPN services rendered is at par with the competition.
Private Internet Access is know for a high level of online privacy and anonymity for the user. Their policies ensures 100% online anonymity, which is one of the most important considerations for a safe and secure VPN subscription. Private Internet Access is really popular in online communities like Reddit, and it owes to the fact that PIA concentrates on simplifying VPN for both the beginner and the expert.
Offering servers in up to 10 different countries, Private Internet Access offers a few critical features such as ‘VPN Kill Switch’ and ‘DNS Leak Protection’ which are essential in cutting off internet connection in the event of the VPN platform malfunctioning. Due to the availability of smart devices in the market, and owing to the fact that most VPN users connect to the internet through different devices, PIA has allowed VPN pairing for up to 5 different devices. This allows users to install and use VPN on 5 different devices simultaneously. Let us dive a bit deeply into the company through this comprehensive Private Internet Access Review.
Installation & Configuration
Private Internet Access is available for most operating systems and is compatible with most routers and devices. Off the shelf, PIA terminals are available for Windows as well as Mac OSX, but Linux users are left out. For mobile devices, PIA VPN app is available for android, while iOS app is still under development.
Both desktop applications are easy to install and use. In fact, Private Internet Access has the most advanced VPN application of all competitors. However, the application in itself is quite simple and intuitive. All you have to do is download the installation file and install it on your computer. Upon installation, you will see a settings window that requires you to enter the user login information sent to you at the time of subscription. In the advanced version, you get options such as the ‘VPN Kill Switch’, ‘DNS Leak Protection’, ‘Port Forwarding’, choosing the connection type and of course, selecting the region. You can choose auto if you are only looking for an encrypted connection and not really particular about the location. Once you save your settings, the application will run in the background, and all you will see is a small icon in the system tray.
The auto settings will provide you with the fastest server available to you with respect to your current location. On the other hand, you can choose other server locations according to your needs from the ‘Region’ menu. For Linux users, once again, the manual configuration mode is the way to go. That means you will have to refer to their online ‘How To’ guide for installing Private Internet Access on Linux. If you are a heavy user, and if you like more technical freedom, you can choose manual option for Windows and Mac as well. There are detailed tutorials and self-explanatory guides to help you through the manual VPN configuration process.
On the mobile front, you can download the VPN app from the Google Play store. It works pretty seamlessly and is quite similar to the desktop application. However, iOS users will have to wait for a bit to enjoy a dedicated VPN app. In the meanwhile, you can adopt the manual configuration mode, for which, you can refer to their detailed iOS VPN Installation guide.
In terms of VPN protocols, Private Internet Access offers PPTP, OpenVPN and L2TP/IPSec across the various operating systems and mobile devices. Therefore, PIA does cater to every user with differing requirements. You can even use your VPN subscription on 5 different devices simultaneously, which allows you to install and use VPN on your computer, smartphone, tablet or even on your router.
The most enticing aspect of Private Internet Access is the cost factor. Most mainstream VPN service providers are known to offer various VPN services for an average cost of $6-$10 per month. Private Internet Access, on the other hand, offers a VPN subscription for as low as $3.33 per month. This is the price incurred per month when you choose the annual subscription. You can also choose the half yearly package for $5.99 per month, while the single month package costs just $6.95 per month. Therefore, if you are looking for the most economical VPN service provider that offers some of the best VPN services, PIA is most certainly the foremost choice.
Unfortunately, you can only enjoy a week’s worth of free trial and there is absolutely no money-back guarantee. PIA offers a lot of great features, and maybe, they are quietly confident about their services. Whatever their reason or justification, we would like PIA to consider offering extended free trial for serious customers to get a basic idea and feel about the services over a longer duration, or at least offer a money-back period after the initial subscription.
Payment options are also a strong suite for Private Internet Access. You do get the option of paying through PayPal, Credit Cards, Google Checkout, Amazon Payments, BitCoin, Liberty Reserve, OKPay and CashU. Therefore, you can choose between several anonymous payment methods. This ensures complete online anonymity, which is something that various users look for in a VPN service. You can even sign up using proxy addresses without revealing your true identity.
Speed, Reliability & Bandwidth
When we heard about the popularity of Private Internet Access, we were sure that this was some hype created by a company that wanted to rope in the maximum number of sales. Hence, we didn’t pay much heed to all the evidences that pointed to a fast VPN connection. Instead, we took it upon ourselves to check the speed of the VPN connection through various servers on offer.
To our ultimate surprise, PIA performed exceptionally well. In fact, we didn’t face any drop in speed south of 90% of the available ISP speed throughout our testing phase. We consistently achieved 90-95% efficiency from various VPN servers offered by Private Internet Access. We will be honest here; PIA is certainly living up to the hype, and it is now time for us to reshuffle the order in our VPN speed test rankings.
Reliability is at par with the competition, and we endured a similar experience to most other VPN services. At times, we did face connection drops, but thankfully, the VPN Kill Switch and the DNS Leak Protection proved to be more than handy in disconnecting the entire internet connection to avoid accidental revelation of the original user IP address or other identifying information.
We also enjoyed the unlimited bandwidth option, which is great for heavy internet users who download, upload and stream files over the internet. Due to the no-log policy, and the availability of servers in different parts of the world, P2P users can also enjoy complete anonymity. However, we were a bit apprehensive about signing up for Private Internet Access VPN subscription along with other P2P users. Currently, we did not face any speed or bandwidth issues, and we hope this trend continues for the foreseeable future. Private Internet Access also makes sense for those who use VPN services for unblocking geo-targeted websites such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and other similar online entertainment media channels.
Private Internet Access is basically concentrated in the US, which is signified by the strong presence of servers and server networks in different parts of the United States. Globally, PIA has server networks and VPN gateways in 10 different countries. These include US, Canada, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, France, Germany, Hong Kong and Romania, with an estimated number of 1569 servers. While this is enough from PIA’s perspective, we are worried about the extent of P2P subscription, and are a bit worried about what a large number of heavy users will do to the existing VPN browsing speed and bandwidth. For such a low cost, PIA makes a good choice of VPN, but we could certainly advise further server network expansion.
Data Logging Policies & Online Anonymity
Private Internet Access maintains a strict ‘no-log’ policy for all of its users. However, users have to use servers outside of the US for P2P / torrent downloads, and if there are any cases of copyright infringement or threats to national security while using US servers, the Government, relevant courts or other regulatory agencies may request PIA to investigate the matter. Under such circumstances, PIA will first investigate the matter themselves, and if they don’t find any discrepancies, they will not reveal any user information to the authorities concerned.
The recent PRISM controversy surrounded by NSA’s plans had many users worried about the reliability and anonymity offered by US based VPN service providers. The basic premise for user oriented data collection by NSA or other investigative agencies is by being able to collect data that is being stored by a VPN service provider. PIA is a VPN company that doesn’t store user browsing data. Hence, worries related to data revelation or anonymity is unfounded. Private Internet Access has gone on record and responded to the PRISM controversy.
PIA also supports multiple online payment options, and allows you to sign up using proxy identifying information and addresses to hide true identity. Private Internet Access supports 100% online anonymity, which is why PIA has become popular among the online crowd. PIA is also becoming increasingly popular in the P2P sector.
PIA does offer standardized customer support, and they do offer great help to their users. But we clearly missed a 24X7 live chat function. If you have to contact customer support, you will either have to submit a ticket or send them an email, or contact the live support when it becomes available. We couldn’t find a direct contact number either. This is a serious drawback, and immaterial of the efficiency of the customer support channel, we sincerely wish PIA could address this issue.
PIA does offer great resources and tutorials for their users, and all the resources are pretty detailed and self-explanatory. All the tutorials are designed with the beginner in mind. Therefore, as a PIA VPN user, you can address most of the issues by referring to the advanced tutorials on their websites. In case you can’t find an answer, you can always submit a ticket or send them an email. You should receive fast and timely responses.
Issues & Problems
While there aren’t any serious issues or drawbacks at PIA, we felt that the software could have been more detailed and better designed. Sure, a minimalistic design is good as far as system resources are concerned, but a more advanced interface should have been offered as an option. This will help those users who like more control over their VPN platform.
One serious drawback that we came across is the customer support channel. We would like a 24X7 live chat feature, or at least a phone number to contact customer support for addressing pressing issues at the earliest.
PIA could also do well by increasing the number of servers and the number of countries. This will only help them accommodate the increased number of heavy internet users such as P2P traffic and online streaming, without much effect on the overall speed, reliability or bandwidth.
There are lots of mainstream VPN service providers that charge a premium for the VPN services rendered, but Private Internet Access is one of the few that values its users. For $3.33 a month, PIA offers the most comprehensive set of VPN services that clearly offsets most of the other competitors in the industry. True, there are a few minor issues with PIA, but in the bigger picture, Private Internet Access clearly outweighs almost all the other ‘big name’ VPN service providers in the industry. Maybe an extended free trial and a few more customer support options would be handy, but these are minor hassles when we consider the package and its overall value for money proposition.
Discount & Coupon Codes
Currently, there are no particular discounts or coupons on offer at PIA. We will update this space as soon as any promotional discounts become available for subscribers.