Private Internet Access Review

Fast, secure, and easy to use

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4.5

Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access

What We Like

  • Over 3,000 servers in 32 different countries

  • Works well with Netflix streaming

  • Quick Connect button for easy server switching

  • Works on all major operating systems and mobile platforms


  • Fast performance

  • Can pay via multiple different methods

What We Don't Like

  • No third-party audit for privacy logs

  • Quite expensive for month by month subscribers

  • There's no free trial available - only a seven-day money back guarantee

Private Internet Access is a highly-rated VPN service that keeps your data private, works well with Netflix and torrenting, and allows you to switch locations without a noticeable drop in speed.

4.5

Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access

A US-based VPN service, Private Internet Access has established pedigree for maintaining the privacy of its users. Low in price, it's a popular choice for many thanks to its extensive encryption, solid torrenting support, and its compatibility with Netflix.

We tested Private Internet Access extensively to see if its popularity is well-founded and whether its wealth of features work as well as it sounds. We looked at how easy it was to set up and use, how speedy it is in action, and how secure your data is while you're using it. Turns out that it went pretty well for the straightforwardly named VPN provider. 

Setup Process: Straightforward and easy

We found the setup process for Private Internet Access almost as easy as buying something on Amazon. Simply click the download button on the top right corner of the website, and Private Internet Access immediately suggests the correct app for the system you're browsing from.

This VPN works right out of the virtual box, with no need for additional tweaking from you. Just sign up to a subscription and begin using it. It's great for newcomers to VPN services.

Design: Simple and logical

Private Internet Access's Windows and Mac clients are incredibly simple to use. Clearly designed in a way that will appeal to less tech-savvy users, while still having advanced options included, the desktop interface is very intuitive. You simply open the app, choose the country you want to connect to, then click on the large power button to join.

If you have a particular server or country in mind, clicking on a country opens up a list of servers with the best one automatically listed at the top. It's easy to see countries listed via their flag, as well as the current ping from your location to each server. 

Unlike other VPN clients, Private Internet Access keeps things simple by specifying just the name of the country or the region, meaning you don't need to consider city names or obscure server names like USA: West Coast (server #7) which other clients often favor. If you prefer that level of granular control, you won't find it here.

Once you're connected, the app icon goes green, and you can always click on it to double-check that you're still connected. 

Further options like usage stats or performance figures are available by clicking on an arrow at the bottom of the app. This displays how much incoming and outgoing data there is, as well as a bar of quick settings to flick on or off.

Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access works with many different devices, so it's simple to use no matter what device you own. There are separate apps for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS, with additional extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

Private Internet Access also offers up OpenVPN configurations which are great if you need to complete more advanced setup, such as using it via your router settings. 

It works right out of the virtual box, with no need for additional tweaking from you.

Performance: Mostly excellent, with some brief issues

With Private Internet Access, we found the connection and surfing speed to be pretty great. When tested with our 1Gbps connection, we were able to achieve connection speeds as high as 209.68 Mbps.

We did notice a tiny hint of lag when opening a new website on some devices, but it's almost imperceptible after a little while of using the service. When it comes to loading embedded videos such as those on YouTube, there was no noticeable buffering or freezing issues. It all simply just works. 

We spent considerable time browsing numerous major sites from around the world including the BBC News site, CNN, Amazon, Facebook, as well as streaming services such as Netflix.

Transfer speeds when downloading files didn't feel sufficiently different from regular browsing, except for when we deliberately picked a distant location such as Australia which reported back with a very high ping. The speed was lower here, but not substantially, and was still perfectly manageable.

Private Internet Access VPN
 Private Internet Access

Streaming: Unblocks Netflix sometimes

Streaming services like Netflix work hard to detect when you're using a VPN, and they block such connections whenever possible. In the case of Private Internet Access, we were able to connect to Netflix through some servers, opening up additional libraries and vastly increasing our streaming options.

We did find that Netflix was able to detect some of this VPNs servers, so it is a bit of trial and error to find one that works. We also weren't able to stream any services other than Netflix. When attempting to stream Amazon Prime through US servers, and BBC iPlayer through UK servers, the VPN was detected in each case.

Privacy Policy: Fairly strict

Private Internet Access is based in the United States, which sounds discouraging when it comes to potential legal ramifications. However, this no-log VPN has actually stood the test in court. When subpoenaed by the FBI, Private Internet Access was unable to turn over any log information because they simply didn't have any.

In recent times, Private Internet Access has released transparency reports every six months, which detail how many court orders, subpoenas, and warrants have been issued to the firm. In the past year, none of these legal processes have led to any data being produced by the company. 

Bear in mind though, Private Internet Access doesn't have third-party audits of its system like some other VPNs, so you are reliant on trusting their word. Operating in the United States also opens the company up to potential demands to comply with law enforcement in the future.

Private Internet Access VPN
Private Internet Access 

Security Features: Plenty of options

Private Internet Access has a decent range of security features that mean it can be as complex or as simple as you need it to be.

Private Internet Access's security features include:

  • Default AES-128 encryption: Private Internet Access's default options aren't quite as high-end as the AES-256 encryption favored by other VPN apps, but it's possible to adjust your encryption options to the superior military-grade level of protection. You can also choose alternative authentication and handshaking alternatives via the settings. 
  • VPN kill switch: If your VPN is disconnected for some reason, your connection to the internet is disabled until you choose to reconnect. 
  • IPv6 leak protection: This temporarily disables IPv6 to prevent unwanted identifying data from being accidentally transmitted to another source. 
  • DNS leak protection: Private Internet Access's directs all DNS requests through a non-logging DNS service so there's no comeback to your original location. 
  • MACE: Private Internet Access allows you to block domains used for ads, trackers, and malware. At its simplest, you avoid ads but it also means you can dodge tracking cookies and potentially nefarious malware threats.

Torrenting: Supported and includes a kill switch

Private Internet Access is a great option for regular users of Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file sharing software such as torrenting. It's permissible on all of Private Internet Access's servers with no limits in terms of speed or bandwidth. 

For advanced users, Private Internet Access provides support for port forwarding which means you can redirect incoming connections to bypass a NAT firewall. In some cases, this can improve P2P download speeds. Even without that advanced tweak, speeds are generally highly respectable.

In the event of a sudden disconnect from the VPN, Private Internet Access also features a kill switch. This feature ensures that your real identity won't leak out through your torrents.

The high levels of privacy and the fact that the company doesn't keep any data logs make it an even more appealing option for avid torrenters. 

Private Internet Access VPN
Private Internet Access

Ad Blocking: Hit those ads with MACE

Ads can be a great source of annoyance when you're surfing the internet, but they pose a more sinister threat when you're trying to protect yourself with a VPN. In some cases, an ad network may be able to obtain information about your system, browser, or even connection.

Private Internet Access uses a DNS-based ad blocking system called MACE that cuts web advertising off at the knees. Requests never even go through, as they are routed back to the local machine. Ads don't display, and your web browser never makes successful requests to ad tracking sites.

Customer Service: Email-based ticket system

Private Internet Access doesn't offer a whole lot in the way of customer service support. The only option they provide you with is a ticket based system that you access through email. If you prefer to interact with a support agent in real time over the phone, or through web chat, those options aren't present here.

Price: Good for long term subscribers

Private Internet Access isn't the cheapest VPN out there, but it is very reasonably priced. Subscribe month by month, and expect to pay $6.95. However, that price drops dramatically to $3.33 per month if you commit to a two-year plan.

A middling option of the equivalent of $5.99 per month for a yearly plan is also available. Given the features and options available, it's fairly reasonable. 

Competition: Private Internet Access vs NordVPN

Frequently seen as the go-to VPN service, NordVPN is the one for Private Internet Access to beat. Both services are quite similar, but there are a few differences. Private Internet Access is cheaper when it comes to plans of under two years, while NordVPN has a three-year deal that costs a mere $2.99 per month. 

Features wise, NordVPN has unique tools such as Double VPN, which effectively doubles your level of encryption, allowing your data to flow through two VPN servers rather than just one. This isn't the kind of service that most people require, but it's a neat bonus if your browsing is that private. 

There's also Onion over VPN which gives you the advantages of The Onion Router (Tor) combined with the security of a VPN tunnel. Again, if you need advanced tools, NordVPN is the one to beat.

Final Verdict

Private Internet Access is fast, highly secure, and has a very easy to use client. It takes seconds to set up and doesn't require expert knowledge, while not skimping on advanced options. It might lack some important features offered by competitors like NordVPN, and the United States jurisdiction leaves a lot to be desired, but its high performance level means it'll still suit the majority of users. Its wide range of payment options is particularly appealing also.

Specs

  • Product Brand Private Internet Access
  • Price $3.49
  • Speed (Fastest Observed) 209.68Mbps (Tested on a 1Gbps connection)
  • Operating Systems Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS
  • Devices 10 devices at a time
  • Server Locations 32 Countries
  • Number of Servers 3,375
  • Streaming Netflix (some servers trigger a proxy warning)
  • Torrenting Yes, including a kill switch
  • Encryption AES-256 OpenVPN and IKEv2,
  • Logging No (regular transparency reports)
  • Jurisdiction United States
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