Private Internet Access Review 2018: Everything you need to know

Private Internet Access Review 2018
  • Price
  • Reliability
  • Speed
  • Policy
  • Support

Summary

Private Internet Access are one of the most well-known and most well respected VPN providers in the world. In our tests we found they lived up to their reputation and for a low-cost VPN service they have a lot to offer.

Pros

  •  Tested no-log policy.
  • Super cheap price.
  •  Good connection speeds.
  •  P2P and Torrent accepted.
  •  Unique Gift card payment option.
  •  Extensive selection of encryption options.

Cons

  •  Fewer server locations than others.
  •  Can't max your internet speed.
4.0

Private Internet Access is one of the most well-known VPN providers in existence with estimations of more than 2-million subscribers.

Some users love Private Internet Access and others loathe them. With so many subscribers and such a big imprint on the VPN market, they must be doing something right.

But is Private Internet Access right for you? and do they deserve their reputation as one of the Best VPN services? We find out in this 2018 Private Internet Access review.

Packages:

Private Internet Access is like the majority of VPN providers. They offer one standard package that differs only in subscription length.

There are no higher or lower tier packages here. The full service is available regardless of how long you subscribe for. The current subscription prices for Private Internet Access are:

  • 1-Month $6.95 p/m (approx £4.96)
  • 1-Year $3.33 p/m (approx £2.39)
  • 2-Years $2.91 p/m (approx £2.08)

Since our last review, Private Internet Access has done away with their 6-month subscription period and added a new 2-year subscription option.

The yearly package was already one of the cheapest in the industry but the new 2-year package is cheaper than nearly every other VPN provider out there.

If you’re a Brit then the good news is the increased strength of the pound has made the packages even cheaper than they were a year ago. If you’re worried about currency fluctuations then it’s a good idea to lock in on a 2-year deal.

The Service:

Private Internet Access offers access to the major VPN protocols which includes OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec and PPTP. There’s also an additional SOCKS5 proxy service available.

Logging

Private Internet Access claims to log no details of your activity. On their website they clearly state “no activity logs”.

Their privacy policy is clear that none of your traffic or usage of their service is logged.

It’s often quite easy for VPN providers to make such claims. In fact nearly every VPN provider claims to log none of your activity.

Unfortunately trying to decipher cleverly worded terms can often be a headache and in more cases than not the “no logging” of many providers turns out to not be 100% accurate.

As far as we are aware Private Internet Access stick to this promise and they’re one of few who has seen their log policy put to the test so to speak in a US court case.

In 2016 a hoax bomb threat was made which resulted in Private Internet Access being caught up in the criminal case. It was stated that they had no useful information that could link any of their users to their activity.

Server Locations

Being one of the cheapest VPN services Private Internet Access has always had one of the smallest selections of countries available to connect to.

Back in 2013 they had a measly 10 locations worldwide. Thankfully that has much improved and there are now at current count 28 countries covered across the world.

Considering the price hasn’t increased in all those years it means you’re now getting more value for your money.

The server location count is still at the lower end of the scale but when you’re paying three times less than many other providers it’s something you can probably live with.

VPN servers are available in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, much of Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Brazil, India and a few other locations too.

There are well over 3000 VPN servers available to connect to which is more than most other providers, even ones who offer a larger country selection.

Concurrent Connections

Surprisingly Private Internet Access allows you to connect one account on up to 5 devices at the same time.

There are no restrictions on the types of devices you can connect or the combination of devices.

This limit hasn’t changed since we reviewed Private Internet Access last year but it matches the higher end of the scale offered by other providers.

Considering the price of the service it’s a little surprising to see such a generous concurrent connection limit. If you took a 2-year package and maximised the 5 device limit you would be paying as little as 0.58 US cents per device per month, a bargain if ever we’ve seen one.

Other Notable Features

Private Internet Access accepts some of the widest ranges of payment options of any VPN provider.

A quick selection of some of the payment options includes Paypal, Credit and Debit Card, AmazonPay, Bitcoin Cash, Zcash, Bitcoin, Mint, WebMoney, Mobiamo and a whole host more.

One of the standout payment options is the ability to use gift cards from the likes of Walmart, Starbucks, Amazon and even Victoria Secret. Plus a whole host of other companies.

The beauty of this is you don’t need to create an account. Simply enter the gift card number and you’re supplied with a login and password.

It’s features like this that further your anonymity. If you’re serious about your online security and you want your VPN provider to know as little as possible about you then Private Internet Access’s gift card payment feature is definitely worth a look.

Private Internet Access supports a huge range of good causes. Some notable ones include EFF and the UK’s very own Open Rights Group, both of which we at VPNCompare also support.

They also support more than 42 other good cause organisations which shows they’re a service that is reinvesting some of their profits back into community projects.

Mobile Apps:

Private Internet Access offers apps for both the major mobile systems which include Android and iOS such as the iPhone and iPad.

These apps make getting connected on your phone or tablet incredibly easy and within just a few taps you can be connected, protected and forget the app is even running in the background.

We tested the Android app which has been ever so slightly redesigned since we last reviewed Private Internet Access a year ago.

The main screen of the app is rather minimal, but not in a negative way. It allows for simple one click connection. If you’re a beginner to VPN use you can basically just click connect and let it do its thing without any further interaction.

If you know a little bit more about what you’re doing you can pick a specific country to connect to which opens in a list sorted alphabetically. It would have been nice to be able to sort this list but it does point out the speed in ms of each server and which allow port forwarding.

PIA Android App

Where the mobile VPN app from Private Internet Access really stands out is in its Settings area. There is a whole host of value added services that can increase the privacy and protection of your device.

Mobile settings galore

Options available include, PIA Mace which automatically blocks ads, trackers and malware, Block Local Network, Use TCP, Request Port Forwarding, Remote Port, Local Port, Internet Killswitch, Use Small Packets and Aggressive IPv6 Blocking.

You’re also able to alter your encryption standards and choose from AES-128-CBC, AES-256-CBC, AES-128-GCM, AES-256-GCM and None.

Data Authentication can select between SHA1, SHA256 and None. Handshaking has a wide range of options including RSA-2048, RSA-3072, RSA-4096, ECC-256k1, ECC-256r1 and ECC-521.

If you haven’t got a clue what any of these mean then you can leave them at their defaults. It may seem a bit overkill but it certainly gives you options over your connection that aren’t available from most other provider’s mobile VPN apps.

On top of that there are a couple of other options for automatic connection, a dark theme and the ability to select only certain apps to make use of the VPN connection.

Desktop Apps:

Desktop apps or VPN software as it is better known is available for both Windows PC’s and Mac computers running Mac OS.

Since our review last year the desktop software has also been ever so slightly redesigned. Gone is the separate window interface splitting server selection and connectivity options, to be replaced with an all in one interface.

Thankfully though the settings area can be enabled or disabled so it doesn’t make much of a footprint on your desktop. If you’re using a low resolution laptop for example then you’ll appreciate this nifty space-saving design.

The main portion of the software concentrates on your account details and server selection options. There is however no Connect button which is slightly odd and not in keeping with the industry standard layout of VPN clients. We’re all for innovation but this lack of Connect and Disconnect button really wasn’t an advantage.

PIA Windows

The Settings area is where the software really shows its glory with a host of privacy-saving options that can be enabled.

Port Forwarding, PIA’s malware busting MACE service, a VPN Kill Switch, DNS Leak Protection and IPv6 Leak Protection are just some of the features that can be enabled at the click of a switch.

There’s also an in-depth encryption section that allows you to customise the type and level of encryption if you’re so inclined. If you’re a new user then you can always leave well alone and let the default options take care of your protection.

Connection is handled mostly through the notification icon on the Windows software and we found it to be a little unintuitive. We really missed the ability to just Connect or Disconnect from the main software window.

For those who like minimal design and space saving this will probably be an advantage but for us, we really missed the standard Connect button.

The Private Internet Access desktop software certainly isn’t going to win any awards in the design stakes but there are plenty of options to add security to your connection. We really liked the high customisation of the encryption options and we haven’t seen such a vast array of connection options from any other provider to date.

Speeds:

Private Internet Access is one of the cheapest VPN providers available and you may think this is to the detriment of the speed.

Thankfully this isn’t the case and when using Private Internet Access for daily tasks such as streaming video, browsing websites and all our other daily internet business we saw no noticeable speed loss.

In fact we were able to unblock geo-restricted content like the UK’s Channel 4 and stream video halfway across the world without any buffering which was sometimes far superior to other services we’ve tested.

As a test, we downloaded a 1Gb test file from a European server using the Private Internet Access Windows client with 256-bit encryption. Our download speed without being connected to the VPN service was 219.01 Mbps.

Below are our results from a random selection of servers within near reach of our location.

  • UK – 83.72 Mbps
  • Netherlands – 84.72 Mbps
  • Switzerland – 71.97 Mbps
  • Sweden – 61.57 Mbps
  • Norway – 51.37 Mbps
  • Romania – 53.01 Mbps

It’s worth remembering that our results are just a snapshot of speed at a moment in time and your speed millage may vary for the better or worse depending on many factors.

The Private Internet Access speeds overall are actually rather good. While they’re certainly nothing to write home about they were consistent and definitely outperform some competitor services.

Going back to the price point of the service again it makes the speeds extremely surprising and with results such as these you won’t have a much problem streaming in high quality or carrying out other speed intensive tasks.

Encryption & Policies:

Encryption

Encryption is one area where Private Internet Access shines above the rest.

Most of the PIA clients use OpenVPN because it’s the most secure VPN protocol. You’re also able to customise the encryption used much more than most other providers.

Data Encryption is able to be selected between AES-256, AES-128 and None.

Data Authentication can be selected between SHA1, SHA256 and None and Handshaking can be selected between RSA-2048, RSA-3072, RSA-4096, ECC-256k1, ECC-256r1, ECC-521.

Policies

Private Internet Access has extremely clear policies from their Terms of Conditions through to their Privacy Policy.

They claim not to log any of your traffic or usage of their VPN service. They also state they won’t sell your information to third parties.

PIA is one of few providers who has had their no-log policy put to the test and you can read more about that here.

We didn’t see anything that should be overly concerning in their policies section but it’s always worth reading over them yourselves before signing up.

Verdict:

Private Internet Access is one of the biggest, oldest and most well respected VPN services in the industry.

In our testing it’s not hard to see why. They’re an extremely affordable service that offers levels of quality that match services that cost twice the amount.

While they don’t have a huge range of server locations they do cover all the usual VPN locations and unless you require specific access to a country then they’ll likely be suitable for almost all needs.

The software and apps while not the most attractive function well and have been well thought through to include additional features that add an extra layer of security.

We really liked the fact their no-log policy has been put to the test more so than some other providers and so far no one has any reason to suspect they aren’t keeping their word.

Speeds on the service are more than acceptable and while you won’t be getting overly excited about them they are suitable for the majority of needs. If you’re a heavy downloader or you want to max out your internet connection you may need to look elsewhere however.

Private Internet Access seems to be a service that users either love or hate. For the quality of the service and the costs involved we can’t see much wrong with it. It certainly isn’t our number 1 service but it’s pretty high on the list and we would definitely recommend it if what they offer is suitable for your personal needs.

If you’re looking for privacy protection at the fraction of the cost then you can’t really go wrong here.

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