ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access (PIA)
Comparison & Test Results 2018
ExpressVPN is a great option for users looking for fast connections, great global server coverage and tip-top-customer support.
BitTorrent users will be especially pleased with the provider’s global support for protecting file sharing connections, and streaming users will appreciate the provider’s fast connections. While the provider is more expensive than many other providers, the high level of service offers a good return on investment.
Private Internet Access (PIA) is the VPN provider for you if you’re looking for a bargain-basement-priced provider that supplies excellent connection speeds (great for streaming) and great privacy protections.
While PIA also supports BitTorrent users, they only allow the activity on a limited amount of servers. PIA’s global server coverage also comes up short against its head-to-head competitor.
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 and 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, and you should also have enough information to help you decide which VPN is the right one for you.
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.
When testing connection speeds, I first tested my ISP-provided speeds. Then, I tested each provider’s connection speed by connecting to their VPN servers located in the U.S. and U.K. I calculated the difference between the ISP speeds and the VPN speeds, and then used the numbers to calculate the speed percentages shown in the tables.
Local Connection Speeds (U.S.)
Private Internet Access offered up protected connection speeds that were much faster than I expected from a low-cost VPN provider, coming in at just over 94% of the speed of my ISP-only connections.
ExpressVPN does a good job of supplying fast connection speeds. The provider measured in at just under 84% as fast as my unfettered connection. Your mileage may vary, as I am located in the United States.
International Connection Speeds (U.S. to U.K.)
Private Internet Access kept the high connection speeds coming from its U.K. VPN server farm. ExpressVPN also performed well, only dropping just a few percentage points from its U.S. measurements.
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 just $6.95 when you opt for the monthly subscription option and is $3.33 per month ($39.95 per year) when you opt to pay for your subscription annually. This is one of the lowest-priced VPN providers I’ve ever used, and it’s an excellent value for the money.
ExpressVPN is more of a premium-priced provider, with a month-to-month tariff of $12.95 and a $99.95 annual fee ($8.32 per month). The provider’s pricing is one of the highest in the VPN industry. That said, it does offer premium service in most of the categories listed in this article.
Money-Back Guarantee Period
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 a privacy-protecting payment option, such as Bitcoin or even merchant gift card balances.
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.
Private Internet Access is located in the United States, which seems to get just a little more privacy-unfriendly with each passing day. That said, 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.
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.
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 offered by VPN providers. I’ll take a look at each one, then explain how well each provider performs in that particular category.
ExpressVPN uses the AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) with 256-bit keys, usually referred to as AES-256. VPN protocols used in the provider’s apps include OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec.
Private Internet Access also provides AES-256 with OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec to its customers as well, providing equal protection to its users.
Encryption Winner: Tied
AES-256 encryption, using OpenVPN with TCP/UDP, PPTP, SSTP and L2TP/IPSec
AES-256 encryption, using OpenVPN, L2TP+PSK and PPTP
Private Internet Access allows up to 5 concurrent connections per account. ExpressVPN allows only 3 connections at once.
While both providers provide an option for families or small businesses, PIA obviously offers a bit more flexibility when it comes to the number of connections they allow at once.
While BitTorrent/P2P file sharing is a popular online activity, it’s also one of the most controversial. Depending on where you live and what you’re sharing, the activity can be considered legal or illegal.
Using a VPN is a great way to protect your BitTorrenting activities from the prying eyes of your own ISP, law enforcement and content providers. A VPN hides your real IP address and encrypts your connection, ensuring your file sharing activities are kept under wraps and that you can’t be tracked by law enforcement or movie studios.
ExpressVPN allows BitTorrenting on all of its servers - they even provide a useful how-to guide on their website that explains how their service protects you while you’re engaged in file-sharing activities, and which offers some great tips on how to best use the ExpressVPN service to protect your connection.
While Private Internet Access is also torrenting-friendly, they only allow the activity when connected to certain servers. PIA restricts the activity to servers located in Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, France, Germany, Romania and Israel.
# of Countries Where VPN Allows BitTorrent
94 (All Countries)
Global Server Coverage
When considering any VPN service, always take note of how well they cover the globe with their server farms. Look for a large number of servers, distributed evenly around the world. This will provide greater flexibility for your content-unblocking needs.
ExpressVPN provides over 1,500 servers that 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.
Meanwhile, Private Internet Access offers an impressive server count: 3,272+. However, they have them stationed in just 25 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.)
Private Internet Access has the major desktop and mobile platforms covered, with native apps for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS and Linux devices. In addition, they provide a browser extension for the Chrome platform and also offer support for DD-WRT and Tomato-enabled routers
ExpressVPN features native app support for the Windows, macOS, Android, iOS and Linux platforms. In addition, they provide extensions for the Chrome, Firefox and Safari browser platforms, as well as setup instructions for popular routers.
If you’re the type who doesn’t have the skills or time to set up your router to use either VPN, both providers offer ready-to-go plug-and-play routers through FlashRouters.com.
Features Star Ratings
While ExpressVPN’s and Private Internet Access’ apps are easy to install and set up, 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, live text 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 those times I was looking for a quick bit of information.
Private Internet Access support options include an online 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 support questions, and the knowledge base proved to be quite helpful when I felt like looking for a quick answer to minor support questions.
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.
Private Internet Access nosed ExpressVPN out at the finish line due to their bargain pricing, speedy connections, comprehensive device support and excellent privacy protections.
While ExpressVPN offered better global server coverage and wider BitTorrent support, it couldn’t quite gather enough points to grab the top spot.
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 your personal data.