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Private Internet Access
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
Can pay via multiple different methods
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.
A U.S.-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.
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 (through a system or menu bar icon), choose the country you want to connect to, then click on the large power button to join. Clicking on a country opens up a list of servers with the best server for you automatically listed at the top. It's easy to see countries listed via their flag, as well as their current pings.
Unlike other VPN clients, Private Internet Access keeps things simple with simply the name of the country listed 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.
Once you're connected, the app icon goes green, and you can always click on it to double-check you're 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.
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. It 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.
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.
With Private Internet Access, we found the connection and surfing speed to be pretty great. There's a tiny hint of lag when opening a new website, 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. Speed 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 high pings. The speed was lower here, but not substantially, and was still perfectly manageable.
Netflix frequently detects when you're using a VPN to access its service. In the case of Private Internet Access, it didn't spot the client in use. That meant we were able to safely browse and watch content from other countries, vastly increasing our options on Netflix. We couldn't replicate the same thing when using Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer, however. Both times, Private Internet Access was detected, and we had to switch it off to use the service.
Private Internet Access is based in the U.S. which sounds discouraging when it comes to potential legal ramifications, but it's proved it's a safe place to browse through. Private Internet Access promises that it doesn't keep any logs on your activity and its military-grade Open VPN protocol encryption means your data is near impossible to steal.
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.
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:
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.
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 isn't the cheapest VPN out there, but it is very reasonably priced. Subscribe month by month, and expect to pay $9.95. However, that price drops dramatically to $3.49 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.
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.
However, in terms of attractive user interfaces, we prefer Private Internet Access. It's simpler to use while still far from basic. For the average internet user, this will suit them more readily than the less attractive stylings of NordVPN.
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 a few neat extras that companies like NordVPN provide, but its high performance level means it'll still suit the majority of users. Its wide range of payment options is particularly appealing also.
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