Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN review

Private Internet Access (commonly known as PIA) is a capable VPN provider, now owned by Kape, which also owns CyberGhost, ZenMate and ExpressVPN.

The company’s ‘NextGen VPN Network’ has locations in 83 countries, spread all around the world. (That’s up from 78 in our last review, with PIA expanding into Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Indonesia and Malaysia.)

We’re not talking cheap shared servers, either. PIA says NextGen servers ‘utilize better hardware components’, have ’10Gbps network cards instead of 1Gbps’, use RAM disks to ensure ‘all sensitive information is lost as soon as the server loses power’, and now support both WireGuard and OpenVPN.

You’re able to access this VPN network via apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and Linux, browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Opera, and there are detailed setup tutorials for routers and many other device types.

  • Want to try Private Internet Access? Check out the website here (opens in new tab)
  • Private Internet Access subscription options:
  • 24 month plan – $2.19 per month ($52.56 total cost) (opens in new tab)

PIA supports connecting up to 10 devices simultaneously. That’s twice the allowance you’ll get with many VPNs, although Windscribe and Surfshark have no limits at all.

Extras range from the simple and straightforward (built-in blocking of ads, trackers and known malicious websites) to the more low-level and technical: a SOCKS5 proxy for extra speed, port forwarding support, the ability to select your preferred encryption, authentication and handshaking methods, and more.

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And if that sounds too complicated for you, no problem – there’s 24/7 live chat support to talk you through any tricky bits.

PIA offers plenty of server locations, as well as Smart DNS tech (Image credit: Private Internet Access)

Recent additions

PIA now supports Smart DNS, a handy technology which provides a quick and easy way of unblocking some websites. This isn’t as powerful as a VPN – there’s no encryption, it doesn’t change your IP address – but you can use it on devices like Smart TVs, games consoles, and many others which don’t support running PIA’s apps.

The Android app has been certified by the ioXt Alliance (opens in new tab), verifying that it complies with standards in areas like cryptography, software verification and updates.

A capable command line app for Windows, Linux and Mac enables automating VPN operations from scripts.

App updates are mostly about fixing bugs and making smaller incremental changes, but some could still have far-reaching effects. The desktop now automatically measures and selects the real MTU value after connecting, for instance, a technical tweak which could make a big difference to connection speed and reliability.

Private Internet Access provides a range of payment methods (Image credit: Private Internet Access)

Private Internet Access pricing

The Private Internet Access monthly plan (opens in new tab) is fair value at $9.95. The annual plan (opens in new tab) is cheaper than most at a low $3.33 a month, but opt for the three-year plan (opens in new tab) and this drops to just $2.03 ($2.19 on renewal). That’s less than half the price of CyberGhost ($4.29) and HideMyAss ($4.99), and less than a third of the price charged by Hotspot Shield ($7.99).

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PIA offers dedicated IPs in Australia, Canada, Germany, Singapore, UK and US. This gets you the same IP address every time you log on, and as no one shares it, you’re less likely to find you’re block-listed due to someone else’s dodgy activities. But using the same IP also means you’re more likely to be recognized by websites, so this isn’t an option for everyone.

Pricing for a dedicated IP is reasonable at $5 a month, $4.25 on the one-year plan, $3.75 over three years. NordVPN is a little more expensive at $5.83 a month on its annual plan, but Ivacy undercuts everyone at just $2.41 a month on its annual plan, $1.99 over two years.

You can pay for PIA via Bitcoin if you’re looking for extra privacy, and there’s the usual card and PayPal options, too.

There’s a free 7-day trial for mobile users, and you’re also covered by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

PIA’s Terms and Services (opens in new tab) has another surprise (and unusually for small print, it’s a good one). Many VPNs say customers are only allowed one refund, ever. Private Internet Access says that if you purchase a new account more than three months after the last refund, you’re eligible for another. Works for us.

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PIA offers AES-128 or AES-256 CBC or GCM encryption (Image credit: Private Internet Access)

Privacy

All VPNs claim to deliver great privacy, but Private Internet Access combines an unusual mix of features which go further than most.

PIA’s apps mostly use only the latest and most secure protocols, for instance, in OpenVPN and WireGuard.

Private Internet Access provides its own DNS to reduce the chance of DNS leaks. The apps are flexible, though – the Windows client can be set to use your default DNS, or any custom DNS of your choice.