Started by London Media Trust in mid-2010, Private Internet Access (aka PIA) has become one of the more popular – and at some points, most controversial – VPN on the market today. After years of using PIA and numerous other services, I’d like to give my personal opinions in this quick Private Internet Access review for 2021.
Perhaps you’ve come across this Private Internet Access review thanks to a Google search or maybe you’ve been browsing through some of the other reviews I’ve done.
Either way, I hope you can find this useful.
I’ve spent the many years personally testing out quite a few China VPNs and although I am by no means an expert in online security, my experience with multiple providers has allowed me to compare and contrast the pros and cons of each.
Below I want to share with you my personal Private Internet Access review in addition to a breakdown of their key features.
Whether you decide to just watch the video or read the review, I believe you’ll walk away with a good perspective on whether or not PIA is the right choice for you.
Note: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you, I may be compensated if you choose to use the services listed here. I only recommend what I personally use, and I’m grateful for your support of this free website!
Private Internet Access Video Review
To start, I’d like to offer you a quick video review of Private Internet Access that I recorded a few years ago. The visuals are a bit dated, but a lot of what I say here remains true, even now in 2021.
Now that you’ve had a chance to check out the video review of Private Internet Access, let’s continue with the written review.
Private Internet Access (PIA) – Pros vs Cons
I’m going to cut to the chase here and tell you the things that I like and dislike about the Private Internet Access service.
|Unbelievably simple and fast installation|
10 Simultaneous connections (computer and/or mobile)
Anonymous Payment Options (Bitcoin, gift cards, etc)
7-Day Refund (not publicized, but available)
|Design and UI seem a bit dated (with the logo being a perfect example);
Simplicity means a lack of advanced options;
Private Internet Access offers a number of different payment options too choose from as long as you purchase through their website (not available on mobile).
Now that we’ve covered the pros and cons as part of this Private Internet Access review, I’d like to dive into both the desktop and mobile applications to show you what they look like and how they operate.
Private Internet Access Desktop Application
As with most VPNs, it is entirely possible to use the Private Internet Access servers in an open source program like OpenVPN but since they offer their own simple downloadable application the easiest option is to use it.
Once I had paid for my subscription to Private Internet Access, I immediately received an email with a link to download the application. The application file itself was small (26 MB) and took only a few seconds for me to download and install.
Once launched, you are immediately asked for your username and password, which you were provided in the initial email.
Unfortunately, PIA doesn’t allow you to choose your username and password, which I’ve found annoying. It means that every time I want to install the software on a different device, I have to pull up that initial email to find my login information.
Within the application there are various settings options that allow me the ability to enable an internet kill switch, DNS leak protection and quite a few other features. I even have the ability to change the level of encryption if I want to.
When I want to connect, I just click on the icon in my tray and find the region whose servers I want to use. The icon turns different shades of black to tell me whether or not I’m connected.
Private Internet Access on Mobile Devices
It used to be that PIA didn’t even have a mobile app (many years ago), and thankfully they listened to my advice – or perhaps just grew as a company – and developed their own app.
The Private Internet Access app is downloaded through the app store on both Apple and Android devices and requires the same username and password I mentioned above. You’ll need to reference the welcome email they send you.
Once you’ve logged in, the interface is pretty simple. You’ve got a big power button to connect to a server and the option to choose which server you want based on either location or speed.
The app does have a surprising amount of advanced features, giving you the ability to change the VPN connection protocol, integrate with Siri (Apple devices only), enable the kill switch, and even set up an ad blocker for your internet browser.
The details page that you can see above also provides a lot of odd information such as my usage and IP addresses. I don’t know of any other VPN app that does this and I’m not exactly sure how it’s useful.
Honestly, the fact that the PIA app displays my original IP address makes me worried about how they’re using this information. Obviously, any VPN app would have this information, but they don’t openly display it within the app screen like PIA does.
Overall, it’s an easy-to-use app, though, and gets the job done. It’s got more settings than the average VPN app does that I use, including the ability to change from a light to dark theme.
Security? Private Internet Access Review
That being said, I applaud Private Internet Access for a few key features that aren’t found on every personal VPN software today.
- The ability to choose your connection protocol: This may seem trivial, but most VPNs tend to automatically choose a protocol for you, particularly with the mobile apps. They tend to choose the fastest connection to improve user experience, but this doesn’t always translate into the most secure connection. PIA allows you to choose which connection you want.
- The option for a VPN Kill Switch: A VPN kill switch ensures that even if your VPN connection drops for some reason, your data isn’t exposed. The kill switch cuts off your network connection if you ever lose your VPN connection.
- Anonymous forms of payment: If anonymity is your goal, being able to pay for a VPN with an anonymous form of payment (i.e. Bitcoin, Etherium, etc.) is a plus. It’s not the only identifiable piece of information a VPN company has, but it sure is a big one.
Private Internet Access claims not to keep a log of your activity, but again, that’s something that every company says and there’s no way to verify the claims.
Final Thoughts | Private Internet Access Review
As you can see in this Private Internet Access review, I’ve spent quite a bit of time using this VPN and although it’s a good VPN, I still prefer others like ExpressVPN or VyprVPN. It offers everything you want at a price that is pretty much impossible to beat (as low as $3.33/mo when you go for the annual plan)
The entire installation process only takes no more than 10 minutes (watch the video above for detailed instructions on how) and if you don’t like the service, they offer a 7-day refund if you just email them and tell them you weren’t satisfied.