Private Internet Access is a reliable VPN service with sophisticated network settings, a well-designed software, and outstanding speed test results. It has capabilities that go beyond VPN protection, but it needs to be audited by a third party.
- App that is well-designed
- ten connections at the same time
- There are numerous server locations
- Advanced network configurations
- Excellent results on speed tests
- Login system that is unusual
- There is no free version available
PRIVATE INTERNET ACCESS VPN SPECS
|Simultaneous VPN Connections||10|
|Server Locations||78 Countries|
|Geographically Diverse Servers||Yes|
|Free Version Data Limit||No Free Version|
When you turn on a VPN, it encrypts all of your internet traffic and sends it to a VPN company-controlled server. This assures that no one can spy on your traffic, including your ISP, and makes it more difficult for snoops and advertisers to trace you throughout the internet. Private Internet Access is still a candidate for the title of best VPN, despite being one of the oldest surviving contenders in the sector. It has a lot of simultaneous connections for a good price, good speed test results, a great UI, and sophisticated network settings that let tinkerers tinker. It does not, however, have a third-party audit to verify its privacy safeguards.
How much does a VPN service like Private Internet Access cost?
Starting at $9.95 per month, Private Internet Access offers three billing options. That’s less than the $10.11 per month average we’ve seen across all of the VPNs we’ve looked at. While it’s cheap, it’s a touch too expensive for our list of the best cheap VPNs—at $6.95, it would have easily made the cut. Top VPNs that are comparable deliver more for less. Winner of the Editors’ Choice Award Mullvad VPN is only $5.46 (converted from €5) per month.
Private Internet Access, like most VPNs, offers considerable savings for longer memberships. A one-year membership costs $39.95, which is much cheaper than the $70.06 average we found among the VPNs we tested. A three-year package from Private Internet Access costs $79. The company’s discounted memberships change frequently, but you should expect the majority of them to be around those prices. However, we advise against signing up for a long-term subscription at first. Instead, start with a short-term plan to test the service at home and determine if it satisfies your requirements.
Although Private Internet Access is reasonably priced, there are also excellent free VPN services to consider. Editors’ Choice winner TunnelBear and Hotspot Shield both provide free subscriptions with data limits of 500MB per month and per day, respectively. ProtonVPN, on the other hand, is the finest free VPN we’ve tried so far, thanks to the fact that it doesn’t impose any data limits on free customers.
Private Internet Access takes Amazon payments, credit cards, cryptocurrencies, and PayPal for subscription purchases. Gift cards from a variety of retailers are also accepted by Private Internet Access. When you buy one of these cards with cash, your transaction is relatively anonymous. IVPN and Mullvad VPN, Editors’ Choice winners, provide extra options for anonymous payments, allowing cash payments directly to their headquarters.
What Kind of Value Do You Get for Your Money?
With a single Private Internet Access subscription, you can connect up to ten devices at once, which is more than double the market average. However, the industry may be moving away from this paradigm entirely. The number of simultaneous connections is unlimited with Avira Phantom VPN, Ghostery Midnight, IPVanish VPN, Surfshark VPN, and Windscribe VPN.
Private Internet Access includes client apps for Android, iPhone, Linux, macOS, and Windows, in addition to a large number of simultaneous connections. The company also sells routers that are preconfigured to work with Private Internet Access, allowing you to expand VPN coverage to all of your network’s devices.
Split-tunneling is another feature of Private Internet Access, which allows you to choose which apps transfer data over the VPN and which send data in the clear. This is useful for low-risk, high-bandwidth activities like streaming video. In addition, Private Internet Access has a multi-hop feature that passes your traffic over two VPN servers rather than just one. Private Internet Access VPN, for example, has a feature called multi-hop that transmits your VPN data through a second proxy.
Although we should clarify that a VPN is not required to access the free Tor network, the corporation does not give VPN access to the Tor anonymization network. ProtonVPN and NordVPN, both Editors’ Choice winners, provide Tor access, multi-hop connections, and split-tunneling.
In order to entice customers, several VPN providers include extra privacy and security features. To that purpose, Private Internet Access includes MACE, a proprietary ad- and tracker-blocking program. According to the firm, this feature has to be deleted from the Private Internet Access Android VPN Android app due to Google’s guidelines. Customers who want to utilize MACE on Android need sideload an APK from Private Internet Access VPN’s website, though we must emphasize that sideloading is always risky. Similar to HaveIBeenPwned, Private Internet Access also offers a free email breach monitoring service.
On some servers, Private Internet Access also provides port forwarding. This is a more complex configuration that, while not required for a VPN, will undoubtedly be appreciated by network tinkerers.
Since our last review, Private Internet Access has begun to provide users with dedicated IP addresses. This implies that every time you connect to the VPN, your public IP address remains the same. In principle, this should appear less suspicious than a continually changing or known VPN IP address, and hence may not be blocked by sites that restrict VPN access, such as banks and streaming services. An IP address from Australia, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, or the United States. For each address, you pay $5 per month, or the equivalent amount in advance for longer subscriptions (e.g., $60 for a year). This is on top of the standard Private Internet Access subscription. Existing clients can choose a billing period for dedicated IP addresses.
VPNs are useful tools for improving your online privacy, but they cannot protect you from all threats. We strongly advise you to safeguard your computer with a standalone antivirus program, use a password manager to create unique and complicated passwords for each site and service, and enable multi-factor authentication wherever it is available.
Private Internet Access supports which VPN protocols?
VPN technology comes in a variety of flavors, each with its own set of protocols for establishing an encrypted connection. We use OpenVPN because it is open-source and thus subject to volunteer vulnerability testing. WireGuard is the successor apparent to the open-source VPN, with newer technologies and the possibility for even better performance. WireGuard is still very new, and it hasn’t gained as much traction as OpenVPN.
On all systems, Private Internet Access supports OpenVPN and WireGuard. In addition, the iOS app supports the IKEv2 protocol, which is fantastic.
Locations of Servers and Servers
The availability of many server locations gives you additional options for spoofing your location and boosts your chances of locating a server close to your current location. With servers in 78 countries, Private Internet Access has a fair mix of locations. That’s far above average, and it comes close to matching ExpressVPN’s impressive 94 nations. Private Internet Access has several servers in Africa and South America, two locations that are typically overlooked by other VPN providers.
Private Internet Access maintained a server fleet of around 3,000 servers till recently. When we asked about the current size of Private Internet Access’ network, we were told that the company now has roughly 10,000 servers, but that it is shrinking its redundant systems. In the near future, we expect it will continue to change. Keep in mind that the overall number of servers isn’t necessarily an indicative of performance, as a VPN will most likely spin up and down servers as needed.
Virtual locations are used by some VPN services, which appear to be servers in a specific nation but are actually located elsewhere. Private Internet Access has done a good job at identifying which sites are virtual and revealing the servers’ actual location in a blog post. Nearly half of the company’s locations are virtual, according to this data. While virtual locations aren’t necessarily dangerous, we’d prefer to see VPN services rely less on them. For example, ExpressVPN’s server fleet is less than 3% virtual.
Private Internet Access said that it would be relocating its servers from Hong Kong following the passage of a new national security regulation that affects the city. Instead, Private Internet Access is arranging for virtual servers to provide VPN service to Hong Kong that are physically situated outside of China. This is a smart usage of virtual locations because it protects the server while covering a potentially dangerous area. Other nations with authoritarian internet policies, such as Turkey and Vietnam, have virtual regions with Private Internet Access. The company does not have any virtual or physical servers in Russia.
Virtual servers, in which a single hardware computer hosts numerous software-defined servers, are another option for VPN providers. Private Internet Access, according to a company representative, does not own its server infrastructure, which is not unusual, but solely uses dedicated hardware servers. Several VPN providers, including Private Internet Access, have switched to diskless or RAM-only servers, which keep no data on hard disk and are thus less vulnerable to hacking.
With Private Internet Access VPN, you can protect your privacy.
Private Internet Access VPN, like most VPN providers, claims to collect contact information from consumers when they create an account. The firm also collects anonymised aggregate analytics data. This isn’t unusual, but we feel VPN providers should try to collect and store as little data as possible. The revised policy does a much better job of clarifying what the collected data is utilized for.
While users are connected, Private Internet Access’ servers see originating IP addresses, which is required to relay your data back to you. When you disconnect, this information is not saved and is gone. In this process, your login isn’t linked to the originating IP, according to the business. This is true of other VPN providers as well, but it’s helpful to have it stated explicitly by the provider.
Private Internet Access is based in Colorado and is governed by American law. It says it will react to legal subpoenas, as do other businesses, but promises customers that it will fight back when possible. In response to warrants, subpoenas, and court requests, the corporation has produced no data, according to the company’s twice-yearly transparency report.
Private Internet Access VPN is owned by Private Internet Access, Inc., which is owned by KAPE Technologies, which also owns CyberGhost VPN and, most recently, ExpressVPN. Kape was once known as Crossrider and was accused of being an adware platform. Private Internet Access infrastructure is kept distinct from other Kape holdings, according to a spokesman from the company.
Private Internet Access has not made any independent audit results public. While audits aren’t a guarantee of security, they can provide insight into VPN’s behind-the-scenes processes. For the past three years, TunnelBear, for example, has published annual audits. An audit is scheduled for 2022, according to a spokesman for Private Internet Access.
Private Internet Access VPN for Windows in Action
On an Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7BEH (Bean Canyon) desktop running the newest version of Windows 10, we had no issue installing Private Internet Access.
In the purchase confirmation email, Private Internet Access sends you login credentials. We’re not fans of passwords being sent in unencrypted through email since they can be intercepted. While you can change your password (which we recommend doing right away), you cannot alter your company-issued username, which is a security feature that may be confusing to newcomers. IVPN and Mullvad VPN feature a better, albeit unusual, mechanism that does not require clients to provide any personal information. Customers are given random account numbers that act as their sole login credentials—no passwords, no usernames—by these organizations.
The app got a much-needed makeover a few years ago, and it still looks and feels wonderful after a few tweaks. If you miss the good old days, the entire app may still be controlled from the system tray. The app can’t be relocated from its default position above the system tray, and it fades away if you click outside of it. Thankfully, you can adjust this in the Settings section before logging in.
The app is designed around a single window with a warm grey tone and a large yellow Connect button in the center. When you tap it, the app connects to the best server accessible right away. This is exactly what the average user requires: a simple approach to becoming secure right away. On connection, the button becomes green, indicating that the VPN is active, and your public and actual IP addresses are displayed near the bottom of the window.
You can easily switch VPN servers by clicking the location box below the connect button. A country or a city within that country can be selected, but not a specific server. If you have a specific region in mind, you can save it to a Favorites list.
The window extends when you click the caret at the bottom of the program, showing seven more tiles that control different functionalities. To add a tile to your default view, click the bookmark symbol, and to move tiles about, grab the three-line icon. This level of customisation is unheard of among VPNs, allowing the app to be as complex as it wants to be, or as simple as an on/off switch. While it’s simple to use, it lacks TunnelBear VPN’s friendliness and offbeat charm.
The tiles, while spectacular, are of mixed utility. Some provide rapid access to advanced settings, while others show graphs and statistics. The least helpful tile displays the length of your current membership.
The VPN Snooze tile is a useful little utility. This disconnects you from the VPN for the specified amount of time before reconnecting you. It comes in handy if you get blocked by a website and need to disconnect from your VPN. The Snooze feature assures that you’ll be automatically reconnected and won’t unintentionally browse the web without protection.
The main Settings window has more information. Allowing LAN traffic, which allows you to communicate with other devices on your network, a kill switch that disconnects your connection if the VPN disconnects, and the aforementioned MACE are all useful features. The Split Tunnel tab allows you to route apps and IP addresses inside and out of the VPN, and it functioned flawlessly in our tests.
There’s a lot of flexibility here, with options for changing DNS servers, fine-tuning VPN protocol settings, and enabling multi-hop connections. The app’s Automation tab allows you to join or deactivate the VPN for individual networks or broad categories, such as wired or unprotected Wi-Fi networks. Only TorGuard provides a comparable level of customization, although most users will (and should) ignore these options.
In our testing, we discovered that the split-tunneling option caused the program to crash, however Private Internet Access promptly fixed the issue. This is fantastic, because this program includes one of the best split-tunneling capabilities we’ve ever seen. It’s well-designed, allowing you to choose whether apps utilize or ignore the VPN on a per-app basis, as well as establish a general preference for utilizing or ignoring the VPN. It also makes it much easier to find programs to add to your split-tunneling list than competitors. You can add IP addresses to the split-tunneling controls in addition to routing app traffic.
One common fear with VPNs is that they may leak personally identifiable information, such as DNS requests or your true IP address. In our testing, we used the DNS Leak Test Tool and discovered that the server we used did not leak our data.
Because they have regionally limited streaming content licenses, many streaming video services block VPNs. Over a US-based Private Internet Access server, we had no trouble watching Netflix. Keep in mind that this information is subject to change at any time.
Private Internet Access VPN for Android in Action
On a Samsung A71 5G running Android 11, we installed the Private Internet Access VPN program for Android. White with brilliant green highlights is the app’s default theme. There’s also a dark mode, which replaces the light-colored text with a dark background.
To connect to a VPN server, tap the huge button in the top center of the dashboard. A list of connection sites, ordered from fastest to slowest, appears below that button.
There are a few unique features in the Private Internet Access VPN software for Android. Change the Per App settings to experiment with the split tunneling settings. When you tap the green lock beside each program, the VPN is turned off while you’re using that app. There is also a Kill Switch in the app. Multi-hop isn’t available in the app, and a company official says there are no plans to offer it to Android in the future.
When you change your protocol to OpenVPN, you’ll notice an option named Obfuscation under Settings, which allows you to connect through a proxy. WireGuard does not provide an option for obfuscation. You may also use the experimental Automation methods to establish auto-connect policies for untrusted and trusted connections.
We check to see if a VPN is leaking our DNS requests or our genuine IP addresses during our testing. We connected to a server in Mexico City and used DNSLeakTest.com to do a comprehensive test on the connection. During the test, our real IP address was concealed and our DNS information was kept safe.
We went to Twitch and watched a livestream play Minecraft while connecting to the server in Mexico City. The movie played without stuttering or buffering, and the feed loaded promptly. After that, we went to YouTube and viewed a few videos. Each movie loaded quickly and smoothly, with no pauses or stutters.
Private Internet Access VPN for macOS in Action
On a MacBook Pro running Big Sur 11.6.1, we installed Private Internet Access VPN for MacOS from the vendor’s website. The default look for the app is dark, with a grey backdrop and green accents. You can change to a light theme, which has an off-white backdrop with vivid green highlights, by going to settings.
To connect to the VPN, press the large green button in the app’s window’s middle. A server switcher is located beneath that button. You can select from servers in cities all over the world. The connection speed determines the server’s arranging order.
A VPN Kill Switch is included, as well as a sophisticated Kill Switch that prevents traffic from leaving the VPN even when it is turned off and PIA MACE, which blocks domains known to offer advertisements, malware, and trackers. Split tunneling and multi-hop are also supported for MacOS, but only with an OpenVPN protocol.
We used DNSLeakTest.com to run an extended test on the privacy of a Luxembourg-based Private Internet Access VPN server. During the experiment, the true IP address was hidden.
To see how well the VPN server in Luxembourg handled streaming, we went to Twitch.tv and watched the FIDE World Chess Championship. We didn’t notice any stuttering or buffering when watching the stream because it loaded quickly with high-quality video.
While still connected to the Luxembourg server, we went to YouTube.com to watch a few videos. Each video loaded promptly, albeit it took a few seconds for the video quality to improve to the point where it was clear and easy to watch. We didn’t see any videos that paused or stuttered while we were watching them.
Private Internet Access VPN for iPhone in Action
On an iPhone XS running iOS 14.8 with Private Internet Access, we installed the iOS VPN app. The app has a light grey background with vibrant green accents. A huge connection button occupies the majority of the app’s screen, and a server switcher sits just below it, allowing you to select the nation and city for your VPN server connection.
You can access your account settings by tapping the hamburger menu in the top left corner. To see all of the features connected with Private Internet Access VPN for iOS, go to Settings, then Privacy Features. The program has a VPN kill switch as well as a Safari content blocker. Split tunneling and multi-hop connections are not available in the app because split tunneling is not permitted on iOS.
By visiting DNSLeakTest.com and executing an extensive DNS leak test while connected to a VPN server in Buenos Aires, Argentina, we examined Private Internet Access VPN’s ability to mask IP addresses and secure DNS requests. That server did not leak our IP address throughout testing, and our DNS requests were safe.
We launched the YouTube app and watched a few videos while still connected to the Argentina server. Each one was promptly loaded and played without any buffering. We then watched a Twitch live stream. The stream took around six seconds to load at first, but once it did, the footage was crisp and clear. During testing, the video did not stutter or delay.
On Chrome OS, a Look at Private Internet Access VPN
On a Dell Chrome 3100 with an Intel Celeron Processor, we installed the Android app. The Android app for Private Internet Access VPN for Chrome OS is a little, unassuming-looking window, and utilizing the basic user interface, it’s simple to connect to a VPN server.
The app’s most useful features are a Kill Switch and auto-connect, both of which are prevalent in Android VPN apps. There’s also a link to download a private browser, as well as VPN Snooze, which turns the VPN off for a certain length of time. Split tunneling may be accessed by going to the main menu and selecting Per App Settings, then selecting which apps you don’t want to run over the VPN. A dedicated IP address can also be set up using the app.
Performance and Speed
Your online browsing speeds will be affected regardless of the VPN you use. We use the Ookla speed test tool to assess latency, download speeds, and upload speeds with and without a VPN, then calculate the percent difference between the two. Read the aptly titled article How We Test VPNs for additional information on our testing and its limitations.
In our tests, Private Internet Access did a fantastic job, decreasing download and upload speeds by only 10.9 percent and 19.4 percent, respectively. Those are the highest ratings for those two categories as of this writing. Its latency statistics were less spectacular, but still above average: we discovered that the VPN increased delay by 30%.
We’ve switched to a rolling testing strategy and are now reporting speed test results as we obtain them, because to the current COVID-19 pandemic limiting our access to the PCMag Labs. The table below contains all of the most up-to-date information.
However, there is still potential for development. To demonstrate to clients that it takes their privacy seriously, Private Internet Access VPN should complete and disclose the results of a third-party audit.
Private Internet Access VPN is a highly rated VPN because of everything it has to offer. It falls just short of earning an Editors’ Choice award, but it’s still a strong contender.
Private Internet Access VPN
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