ExpressVPN vs. Private Internet Access (PIA) Comparison & Test Results 2019

ExpressVPN will prove to be an attractive option for internet users who are looking for fast connections, comprehensive global server coverage and top-notch customer support.

ExpressVPN logo

BitTorrent users will be especially pleased with the provider’s global support for protecting file-sharing connections. While the provider is more expensive than many other providers, the high level of service offers a good return on investment.

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Private Internet Access (PIA) will prove to be alluring for users looking for a bargain-basement-priced provider that supplies fast connection speeds and top-notch privacy protections.

PIA logo

PIA also supports BitTorrent users on all of their servers. However, their global server coverage comes up short against their head-to-head challenger.

Visit Private Internet Access

How to Choose a VPN

When deciding on a VPN for your individual needs, there are a number of factors and features to consider.

In this head-to-head comparison between ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access, I’ll list the important considerations you need to keep in mind when selecting a VPN service. I’ll also provide information about how well each provider performs in that particular category.

In each category, I will declare a “winner,” naming the provider that performs best in the designated category. At the end of the article, I’ll declare an overall victor.

By then, you should have enough information to help you decide which VPN is the right one for you.

Connection Speed

Connection speed is an important category when considering any VPN provider. In today’s always-online world, a fast connection always comes in handy.

Any provider worth considering should provide an encrypted connection that is as close as possible to your normal, unprotected, Internet Service Provider (ISP)-supplied connection.

Pixel Privacy uses Speedtest.net to test connection speeds. A team of 3 of us conduct the VPN connection speed tests as follows:

  1. When testing the download speed of a VPN, we use a gigabit Ethernet connection based in North America.
  2. We use the Windows version of the provider’s app and configure it to connect using the OpenVPN protocol over UDP.
  3. We test each VPN by connecting to 3 different locations – the United Kingdom, the United States and Hong Kong – at 3 different times of day for 3 days.
  4. Once the speeds have been measured, we calculate their average, which is the speed we report.

Average Connection Speeds

Private Internet Access offered up protected connection speeds that were much faster than I expected from a low-cost VPN provider. PIA’s average download speeds of 84.18 Mbps are easily up to the requirements of gaming or efficiently sharing files via BitTorrent.

ExpressVPN does an even better job of providing fast connection speeds. ExpressVPN’s 106.78 Mbps average download speeds work hand-in-hand with the provider’s excellent global server coverage to deliver efficient access to streaming services around the world.

Average Connection Speed Winner: ExpressVPN

Provider

Avg. Connection Speed Link

ExpressVPN

106.78 Mbps Visit Site

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Private Internet Access

84.18 Mbps Visit Site

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Pricing

These two head-to-head competitors sit at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the category of pricing.

Private Internet Access is one of the lowest-priced VPN providers I’ve ever used, and it’s an excellent value for the money. The provider’s average monthly price is cheaper than a small cup of your favorite coffee beverage, and the month-to-month price comes in around the same price as the large version.

ExpressVPN is more of a premium-priced provider, with pricing that is some of the highest in the VPN industry. That said, it does offer premium service in most of the categories listed in this article.

Pricing Winner: Private Internet Access

Provider

Money-Back Guarantee Period Link

Private Internet Access

7 Days Visit Site

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ExpressVPN

30 Days Visit Site

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Privacy

VPN shoppers should always keep an eye out for a provider that is located in a privacy-friendly country. Also important is that they don’t keep user activity logs of any kind and that they accept an anonymous payment option, such as Bitcoin.

ExpressVPN is located in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), where there are no data retention laws. The provider takes full advantage of this, keeping no user logs of any kind. While the BVI High Court can force a company to disclose their records, ExpressVPN would have no data to turn over.

While Private Internet Access is located in the privacy-unfriendly United States, the company does not keep logs of any type in relation to their users’ online antics. So, even if law enforcement or content providers did request logs, there wouldn’t be any to turn over.

Still, the anti-privacy atmosphere in the U.S. caused me to rate PIA just slightly lower than ExpressVPN.

As far as privacy-friendly payment options, both providers accept Bitcoin. PIA also accepts merchant gift cards, which is a handy way to pay if your “Nana” is still sending you that $20 Walmart gift card for your birthday.

Privacy Winner: ExpressVPN

Provider

Privacy Ranking Site

ExpressVPN

5.0 Visit Site

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Private Internet Access

4.5 Visit Site

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Features

It’s important not to concentrate on any single category, such as price, connection speed or global server coverage when researching Virtual Private Networks. Instead, take a close look at each feature, considering each one in your final decision.

In this section, I’ll cover the various features that VPN providers offer. I’ll take a look at each one, then explain how well each provider performs in that particular category.

Security

ExpressVPN uses the military-grade Advanced Encryption Standard with 256-bit keys, usually referred to as AES-256, for their encryption. VPN protocols that the provider employs in their apps include OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec. Kill switch protection, as well as DNS leak and IPv6 leak protection, are available.

Private Internet Access also provides high-level AES-256 encryption with the OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec protocols to its customers. DNS and IPv6 leak blocking, kill switch protection and the ability to block ads, trackers and malware are also available.

For more information and details about VPN security, check out my VPN Security Features article.

Encryption Winner: Tied

Provider

Security Score Star Rating Link

ExpressVPN

5.0 Visit Site

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Private Internet Access

5.0 Visit Site

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Simultaneous Connections

“Simultaneous connections” refers to how many devices you can connect to a VPN provider’s servers at once. A higher number is better.

This number is an especially important consideration for owners of small businesses (or heads of large families) who may have multiple users in need of a VPN connection at any given moment.

Private Internet Access recently changed their simultaneous user allowance to 10, up from the previous 5-at-once allowance.

ExpressVPN also recently increased their simultaneous user number, bumping it up to 5 users at once, up from the previous count of 3.

Simultaneous Connections Winner: Private Internet Access

Provider

Simultaneous Connections Allowed Link

Private Internet Access

10 Visit Site

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ExpressVPN

5 Visit Site

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Streaming Support

Most of the folks I know have a subscription to more than one streaming service. Popular streaming services include Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and dozens of others.

If you travel, you’ll find that the content a provider offers in one country isn’t the same as it is in other countries. That’s due to the contracts the streamers sign with movie and television show producers, which limit the availability of content on a country-by-country basis.

ExpressVPN does an optimal job of unblocking streaming content from other countries, making it arguably the best provider around for unblocking streaming content. The VPN provider unblocks Netflix in numerous countries, Amazon Prime in the U.S. and the U.K., BBC iPlayer in the U.K., Hulu in the U.S. and many other streaming providers.

Meanwhile, Private Internet Access doesn’t reliably unblock any streaming service, nor do they claim to. While I had hit-or-miss success in unblocking Netflix streams from the U.S., I couldn’t repeat the success on a reliable basis.

Streaming Winner: ExpressVPN

Provider

# of U.S. Streaming Services VPN Unblocks # of International Services VPN Unblocks Link

ExpressVPN

4+ 3+ Visit Site

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Private Internet Access

0 0 Visit Site

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BitTorrent Support

BitTorrent/P2P file sharing is arguably one of the most popular online activities today.

That said, it’s also one of the most controversial.

Depending on where you live and what type of files you’re sharing, the activity can be considered legal, illegal or simply frowned upon.

Many ISPs now block P2P file-sharing activity on their networks, even though reputable individuals and companies use the technology legally.

uTorrent download page

However, an ISP can’t block what it can’t see. A VPN is an excellent tool to protect your BitTorrenting activities from the prying eyes of your own Internet Service Provider, as well as law enforcement and content providers.

ExpressVPN allows BitTorrenting on all of its servers. The service even offers a useful how-to guide on their website that explains how their service protects you while you’re engaged in file-sharing activities.

Private Internet Access also allows torrenting on all of its servers, and like ExpressVPN, it doesn’t log any of your online activities while connected to their servers. A PIA customer support agent told me, “we don’t know and don’t care what you do with our service. That includes P2P file sharing. Share away.”

BitTorrenting Winner: ExpressVPN

Provider

# of Countries Where VPN Allows BitTorrents Link

ExpressVPN

94 (all of them) Visit Site

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Private Internet Access

32 (all of them) Visit Site

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Global Server Coverage

When considering any VPN service, always take note of how well they cover the globe with their server farms. A large number of servers, well-distributed around the world, provides greater flexibility for your content-unblocking needs.

ExpressVPN provides over 3,000 servers, which are spread out in 94 countries around the globe. The provider’s excellent global server coverage means you’ll have plenty of options when it comes to accessing blocked streaming and gaming servers.

ExpressVPN Server locations

Meanwhile, Private Internet Access offers an impressive server count: 3,390+. However, they have them stationed in just 32 countries.

While PIA does have servers in the major countries around the globe, such as the United States, United Kingdom, France and others, you might not have as much access to blocked content as you would with ExpressVPN.

Check PIA’s server locations to ensure they have your blocked-content needs covered before opting for this provider. (You’ll have to scroll down on the page a bit to see their server coverage map.)

Global Server Coverage Winner: ExpressVPN

Provider

Server Count Countries Link

ExpressVPN

3,000+ 94 Visit Site

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Private Internet Access

3,390+ 32 Visit Site

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Multi-Platform Support

It’s an always-connected world, meaning nearly every electronic device you encounter during your day is connected to the internet. That makes the number of devices a VPN supports one of the most important factors to examine when considering a VPN service.

Private Internet Access has the major desktop and mobile platforms covered, with apps for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS and Linux devices. In addition, they provide browser extensions for the Chrome, Firefox and Opera platforms, and support for select routers.

Get ExpressVPN page

ExpressVPN features app support for the Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Chrome OS, Nook and Amazon Fire platforms. In addition, they provide extensions for the Chrome and Firefox browser platforms, as well as a custom app for select routers and setup instructions for other popular routers.

If you’re the type who isn’t inclined to manually set up your router to use either provider, both offer ready-to-go, plug-and-play routers through FlashRouters.com.

Multi-Platform Support Winner: ExpressVPN

Provider

Platforms Supported Browser Extensions? Link

ExpressVPN

8 Yes (Chrome, Firefox) Visit Site

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Private Internet Access

5 Yes (Chrome, Firefox, Opera) Visit Site

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Customer Support

ExpressVPN’s and Private Internet Access’ apps are easy to install and set up, and both VPN providers provide reliable service. However, there’s still a good chance that you’ll have to contact the providers’ customer support agents at one time or another.

ExpressVPN offers a trouble ticket submission form, 24/7 live support chat, email support and an easy-to-search support library. I received quick and helpful replies to all of my support inquiries, and the support library was an excellent asset for quick answers.

Private Internet Access support options include a trouble ticket submission form and a searchable knowledge base. Unfortunately, live support chat is not available. However, I didn’t have to wait long for answers to my questions, and the knowledge base proved to be quite helpful when I felt like looking for a quick answer to minor support questions.

Customer Support Winner: ExpressVPN

Provider

Customer Support Rating Link

ExpressVPN

5.0 Visit Site

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Private Internet Access

4.0 Visit Site

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And The Winner Is…

While both providers offer an excellent way to protect your online activities from prying eyes and access content that might normally be blocked in your geographical area, only one provider is the head-to-head challenge winner.

ExpressVPN logo

ExpressVPN is the overall winner in this one-on-one matchup. The provider won thanks to its superior connection speeds, global server coverage, P2P support, native app offerings, streaming service unblocking and customer support.

The providers tied in the security category.

Private Internet Access proved to be superior when it came to pricing and the number of simultaneous connections allowed.

Although it lost, it should be noted that PIA was an able competitor in most of the categories, making it an excellent VPN option for users on a tight budget.

Whichever VPN provider you decide on, always make sure to make use of the service whenever possible. The online world is a dangerous one, and you should use every tool available to help you protect your internet connection and personal data.

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