Verdict: Private Internet Access has most of the features that you would want from a VPN and has a very affordable annual plan.
If there’s one thing that most netizens will agree on, it’s that VPNs are a must these days. If you are someone who is even a little concerned about your online piracy, well using a VPN should be your topmost priority. Coming to that conclusion is the easy part. The hard part is choosing and deciding which VPN you should use. There are tons of options out there. This easily overwhelms most beginners, who have little to no idea about a VPN.
It would be ideal if one could try out this VPN before deciding to put their money in it. Well. some VPNs do offer free trials. But they are mostly either 24 hours or 7 days. And let’s be honest, that isn’t enough for most people. At Least not for me.
The other option would be to use a free VPN, which as you will find out below, isn’t a good idea. So the best bet would be to rely on the money-back guaranteeing some VPNs over. The VPN we are going to review today is much like these VPNs, with no free trial and comes with a money-back guarantee. But it has one thing no other VPN is offering right now. That is a free 2-month additional subscription if you opt for their annual plan. The VPN we are talking about is Private Internet Access VPN. But before we jump into its review, let’s see why free VPNs are a bad idea.
Reasons to not use a free VPN
Most free VPNs don’t manage to provide a good experience. But even if they do, they are in no way the ideal choice. You should always opt for a paid VPN if possible. A free VPN should be used only as a last resort. Here are a few reasons why we believe so:
- Compromising the Users Security: There have been many reports of free VPN containing malicious malware that can compromise your security. This includes popular free VPNs such as Super VPN and Betternet VPN. Using VPNs that contain malware for security completely beats the purpose. So you should stay as far as you can from free VPNs.
- Serving Ads: Free VPNs need to earn money. They do this by serving ads to the user. While a little amount of ad is never harmful, some VPNs don’t know when to stop. They bombard you completely with multiple ads which makes the website slow and also distracts you.
- Can’t bypass Geo-blocking: Most free VPNs claim that they are able to bypass geo-blocking but the truth is that most of them fail in this aspect. This is because Netflix somehow manages to recognize whether or not a user is using a VPN. They log that IP address and blacklist it so that it can’t be used again. Now the limitation of free VPNs is that they have a limited number of servers and all of those servers have already been blacklisted by Netflix. So, unfortunately, you won’t be able to access Netflix using a free VPN. However, even if you managed to bypass this, the streaming speed will make you pull out your hair. Talking about speed, that’s the next reason.
- Limited Speed: The infrastructure of most free VPNs doesn’t allow them to provide their users with a high speed. Even if they do manage to have those capacities of serving high-speed internet, they won’t do so. This is because they want their users to pay for premium services to unlock a faster speed. Another reason why the speed is low is the absurd amount of ads these free VPNs display. So if speed is your thing, you know what not to choose.
- Limited Features: Most free VPNs have only one to two basic functionalities. They don’t have features such as Kill Switch, Double VPN, Split Tunnel, Onion Over VPN and many other similar features. These features are very essential for providing the users a more secure and private connection and hence a better experience overall. So lack of these features is another reason a free VPN is never the way to go.
Now that you know why free VPNs aren’t the way to go, you must be thinking how paid VPNs are different. Well here’s a few reasons. And these are also the basis on which we will review Private Internet Access VPN.
What makes Paid VPNs better
Like in most things, there are a few desired attributes that most VPNs should have. Here we will look at a few of these attributes. However, these are the very features that make a paid VPN better than a free VPN.
- Security: This is the topmost priority for most VPN users. The level of security a VPN can provide decides how effective a VPN is. A good VPN can be characterized by the following features: Level of encryption: A good VPN will use military-grade encryption like Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256). This is the most common type of encryption used by VPNs and is very effective in protecting your information. DNS leak protection: A good VPN should provide you protection from DNS leaks. Kill Switch: Another feature that most good VPNs should have. It prevents your traffic from leaving in case your connection is interrupted. These and many other features ensure your security is protected.
- Speed: What is the benefit of having a private and secure connection if there is no high-speed bandwidth to accompany it? This is the case with most free and low tier VPNs. Their speed is so slow that all you could do is barely browse a few sites or so. If you are someone whose primary reason for using a VPN is to stream and download content then this will affect you. To be able to stream contents without any buffering, then as per Lifewire your internet speed needs to meet these requirements:- 0.5 Mb/s to view standard definition movies on a laptop computer. While you can stream at speeds of 0.5 Mb/s, the quality is grainy on a large screen, much like watching an old VHS movie. Netflix recommends at least 1.5 Mb/s. 3 Mb/s to view standard definition video (480p) on a T. 4 Mb/s to view high definition video ( 720p, 1080p ). 5 Mb/s or more for the best 1080p experience. 15 Mb/s to stream 4K (but 25 Mb/s is preferred). Also recommended is a 4K Ultra TV with an HEVC decoder. So for a VPN to be considered a good VPN, it has to at least meet these above requirements.
- Logging Policy: Another primary reason people use VPNs is to hide their online activities and prevent ISPs from monitoring and tracking their online activities. The thing is even though the ISP and other third parties won’t be able to track users, the VPN provider will still possess this particular information. There is no guarantee what they will do with that data and nothing is stopping them from selling these data to third party buyers. Also if the VPN provider is based in one of the member countries of the 14 eyes, then there is a chance government surveillance officials might ask for these data in the guise of national security. This is especially relevant if your VPN provider is based in a 5/9/14-Eyes Alliance country. VPNs in these countries can be legally obligated to provide your data. For this reason a good VPN should not store any of your information at whatsoever. So a VPN is as good as its logging policy. Most good VPNs have a strict no-logs policy.
- Number of Servers: The number of servers a VPN has is also a great indicator of how good a VPN is. Having a large number of servers available has its advantages. Here are two such reasons why large no servers can be beneficial. First, more no of servers means that you can switch between servers in case one of the servers isn’t working. So you can find a server that best suits your requirements. Secondly, a huge no of servers would mean that there will be less congestion in a particular server. As a result you will get better speeds. So any good VPN should have a large number of servers spread across the globe.
- Location of Servers: Having a server in multiple regions and locations would mean that we can access unblocked content in all these regions. So along with having a large number of servers, a good VPN should also have these servers spread across more countries and regions.
- Unblock Geo-Restricted Content: Imagine these scenarios. You are someone who is traveling to a different country and want to access your native Netflix or Prime Video library. Or you are someone who wants to access the catalog of a different country because a particular title isn’t available in your region. Normally you would be out of luck in both these scenarios but using a VPN can easily solve these problems for you. A VPN will mask your location based on the server you are connected to. This enables you to access these region-restricted services from anywhere in the world.
- Bypass Internet Censorship: Many countries are known for notoriously censoring a majority of the online content as well as restricting access to many websites. China is one such country that comes to mind. In such cases you can use a VPN to gain access to these restricted contents. However one thing to note is that most VPN isn’t capable of bypassing this.
- Downloading Torrents: Downloading torrents might land you in trouble in multiple countries. Even if it isn’t illegal, downloading a torrent can be painstaking because most ISPs throttle the speed. Some ISPs might even serve you notices for downloading torrents. Universities and other Institutes also block torrents. Using a VPN you can bypass these restrictions and also ensure that you don’t land in trouble.
- Pricing: Pricing is the final deciding factor for most people. After all the VPN that you decide to go for will largely depend on your budget. So it doesn’t matter how many features a VPN has if the pricing isn’t right a VPN won’t sell. So for a VPN to be considered good, it has to have the perfect performance to price ratio.
Private Internet Access VPN Review
The security standard of a VPN is what makes one VPN better than the other. Security is the top most priority of most people when it comes to using a VPN.Any VPN that claims to be one of the best, needs to provide a fully secure connection. Private Internet Access VPN has some very decent features in this respect and performs very well in terms of protecting the privacy of its users.
PIA VPN offers a lot of options to its users when it comes to security. It’s default Protection recommendation includes AES-128 Data encryption with SHA1 Data authentication alongside a RSA-2048 Handshake. However this isn’t the maximum level of protection. The combination of AES-256 Data encryption with SHA256 Data authentication alongside a RSA-4096 Handshake gives it the best protection. It uses AES-256 or Advanced Encryption Standard (256-bit) which is the symmetric cipher algorithm that is used to encrypted and decrypted all the users’ data. It is used along with an “ephemeral secret key” shared between the user and the server which is exchanged with the Handshake Encryption. All this ensure that the user is protected from any kinds of attack and that there is no risk to the user data. The encryption standards also ensure that no one will be able to connect the session to the user. This gives the user top notch security.
2. Network Protocols
Internet protocols are what enables a VPN to create tunnels and help it function. So, the protocols a VPN supports decides how effective the VPN is. These protocols enable the VPNs to safely send the user’s data through the internet. This is necessary for browsing websites, using social media, or doing just about anything else online. They make sure that the user’s connection remains private no matter what. A tunneling protocol is simply a way to transfer information from point A to point B. It may offer an underlying layer of encryption, but it is not considered secure. However a VPN protocol is different from the tunneling protocol. It has many extra functionalities. It performs end-to-end encryption and also authenticates traffic data. It also uses obfuscation of the data which helps in hiding the traffic that the VPN is serving.
Private Internet Access VPN supports the following protocols:
- OpenVPN TCP
- OpenVPN UDP
3. Logging Policies
A VPN that stores your data might end up exposing you if the local government decides to access the data under the guise of National Security. So not keeping any records at all is the way to go. Using a VPN might help you in keeping your traffic and activities safe from your ISP. However, your VPN provider might still possess your data and there’s no saying what they can do with it. This is one of the biggest concerns most people have while buying a VPN. What if your VPN provider is tracking and logging your activities? What stops them from selling your data? Almost every VPN you will find has their straight out claims that it doesn’t log any data. And this is a bit misleading in our opinion. Because to function properly, there are a few user data that a VPN needs to have. But in case of some VPNs there is no transparency as to what they log and what they don’t.
Private Internet Access claims that they don’t’ log any user data. “Here at Private Internet Access, we do not log. Ever.” Here’s what they have to say on that:
This is why at Private Internet Access, we have designed our operations to prevent this from happening in the first place. There are no logs. No identifying information can be collected, regardless of the amount of force applied to us. Several companies have claimed that they do not log, but do anyway at the end of the day. In contrast, we have public court records that state (under threat of perjury) we don’t log anything, available for anyone to read (pages 11-12):
They also went ahead and included the following Court order that proves the same.
“All of the responses from 1&1, Facebook, Twitter, and Tracfone have been traced back by IP address to … privateinternetaccess.com. […] A subpoena was sent […] and the only information they could provide is that the cluster of IP addresses being used was from the east coast of the United States. However, [Private Internet Access] did provide that they accept payment for their services with a vendor company of Stripe and/or Amazon. They also accept forms of payment online through PayPal, Bitpay, Bitcoin, Cashyou, Ripple, Ok Pay, and Pay Garden.”
So, I guess it would be safe to say that with PIA VPN, users don’t have to worry about their privacy thanks to their no logs policy.
4. Geo Unblocking
With an increase in the number of streaming services available, the number of shows available in each region is decreasing. So as a result many shows now aren’t available to stream in a particular region but are available in some other region. This has given rise to a completely new use case for VPNs. People have now started using VPNs so that they can unblock these Geo-restrictions and what shows and movies that are not available in their region. However, Netflix can recognize whether or not someone is using a VPN or not and hence will not serve them the blocked content.
Thankfully, this wasn’t the case with Private Internet Access VPN. We were able to access Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu from different regions without them ever detecting that we were using a VPN. We were able to do High Definition content streaming in all these regions using Private Internet Access VPN. There were very little connection problems. It was also completely buffering free. We never encountered any problems while Geo-unblocking contents in any of the streaming services we used.
Encryption is another key aspect of a VPN that is often overlooked when checking out a VPN. The level of encryption a VPN provides while serving the traffic determines how secure the connection is. This is necessary so that your ISP or any other 3rd parties are not able to see what you are doing. Most VPNs do a great job at this.
Likewise, Private Internet Access VPN comes equipped with modern security protocols that secure your connection and keeps you safe from all external threats. Private Internet Access VPN provides 256-bit military-grade encryption security. This safeguards your wireless router network from all kinds of security threats. It does so by using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256-bit encryption. This encryption uses a 256-bit key for encryption which makes it even more secure. It would take about a billion years for a supercomputer to decrypt something that has been encrypted by AES 256. So rest assured, no one can find out your online activities. Having a virtual IP also ensures that you remain anonymous and your real IP address isn’t exposed.
6. Bypassing Censorship in China
China has one of the highest amounts of internet restriction among all countries. The ‘Great Firewall of China’ blocks thousands of sites that can’t be accessed by the people. This includes popular sites like Google, YouTube, Google Translate, Facebook, and Whatsapp. While you use a VPN to access these services when in China, most VPNs are blocked. This is because China has some very good anti-VPN tech that succeeds in blocking most VPNs. So not all VPNs work in China and only a few VPNs can bypass this. Private Internet Access VPN can. Given that you have it installed before being in China, you can easily access those sites.
Private Internet Access VPN has a total of 3292 VPN servers in 67+ locations spread across 46 countries. Private Internet Access VPN might not have a huge number of servers like other big names, but it is more than enough. All its servers are encrypted and have a dedicated IP address. They state that “Our commitment to you is to maintain the highest standards of privacy, while simultaneously providing the most solid, top speed VPN network.” This is something everyone will love about the VPN.
Other than privacy and security, the other thing that we cannot compromise is Speed. No matter what purpose we use it for, we will need high-speed internet to get an uninterrupted connection. So even if a VPN is very secure, if it doesn’t have enough speed then it’s of no use. So we checked out the speeds that we got while using Private Internet Access VPN. But before that we measured our speed without a VPN.
We got a download speed of 36.86 Mbps and an upload speed of 34.11 Mbps. The response time we got was 5 ms. So this was our base speed without having a VPN. Now let’s see how a VPN affects the speed.
Like with other VPNs, we first used the auto function which is supposed to find the server that best suits you and connects you to it. The server we connected to was in the US. So here are the speed test results while connected to that server. The download speed was 26.43 Mbps and an upload speed of 22.17 Mbps. So, both the download speed as well as the upload speed got reduced slightly. The response time was 78 ms which can be considered above average for a VPN.
Next, we connected to the United Kingdom and checked out the speeds. The server we connected to was the London, UK server. The download speed was 25.65 Mbps and the upload speed was 23.24 Mbps. This was again very similar to the US server. The ping however got a hit, and was 136 ms. Moving on to a server in Canada we again got similar results. The download speed was 26.54 Mbps and the upload speed was 20.48 Mbps. Likewise, the ping again took a hit and was 120 ms.
So we come to the conclusion that being connected to a Private Internet Access VPN will reduce your speed but it would still be usable. This speed was still fast enough for streaming, downloading, and other browsing activities. So if you have a high-speed connection, be assured that you won’t be limited by its server speed.
9. P2P Support
P2P, also known as peer to peer connection, is what is used for downloading torrents. As most of you might know, downloading torrents can be tricky. You might get in trouble for this. In fact, it is illegal to download torrents in someplace. You might also get notices from your ISP for the same. So hiding your identity while downloading torrent can be considered a safe choice. So using a VPN for torrenting is kind of a necessity. It helps you in keeping your connection anonymous while you are downloading or seeding a torrent. Some ISPs also throttle the connection speed if they sense that you are downloading a torrent or uploading it.
Private Internet Access VPN has P2P support in all its servers. This, coupled with their high level of encryption, above average download & upload speed and a strict no log policy is great for downloading torrents. This assures you that no one can pry on your personal information and neither your ISP or any other Government agencies will be able to see what you are doing. Users don’t have to worry about notices and other stuff related to P2P because a VPN protects their identity.
Private Internet Access VPN Pricing
With all said and done, the pricing of a VPN plays an important role in whether or not someone will subscribe to it. Here are the different pricing plans of Private Internet Access:
- 1 Month Plan: Like most other VPNs, this is its most expensive plan. It costs $9.95/mo which is still cheaper than what the other VPNs offer.
- 6 Month Plan: This is the mid-tier plan from PureVPN. At $5.99 per month, it costs $35.95 for 6 months. This plan is billed once every 6 months.
- 1 Year Plan: This is the most impressive plan of Private Internet Access. It comes with additional two months for free. This brings the cost to $39.95 for 14 months. So, at $2.85 per month it is one of the most affordable VPN plans out there.
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However, the truth is that PIA VPN does not offer any coupon codes! However, using the link below you can get 2 months free and save up to 71%
Private Internet Access VPN Review Verdict
Private Internet Access has everything that a good VPN should have. The privacy standards are very secure and consists of the latest protocols and encryption practices. The speeds are good, and it is also P2P friendly. Their annual plan comes with two additional free month and there’s also a 30-day money back guarantee. So if you are looking for a VPN to try, then Private Internet Access is worth a try.