ExpressVPN vs PIA

ExpressVPN and PIA are two of the most popular VPN providers on the market, but which one is best for you? We have compared the two in terms of privacy features, server count, upload and download speeds, live chat support, streaming support, and more. PIA is an excellent choice for streaming fans, thanks to its extensive number of servers and fast connection speeds. However, it is not perfect when it comes to unblocking streaming content.

ExpressVPN is arguably the best VPN provider on the market. With more than 3000 servers across 94 countries, first-rate privacy and security features, and an audited no-logs policy, it is a simple, well-designed, and powerful virtual private network that excels in every area.

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ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN: Overview

ExpressVPN

There is an extensive array of Virtual Private Network services available on the market. However, ExpressVPN continues to stand out as arguably the best option available. It offers a host of advanced security features and an excellent, user-friendly experience.

ExpressVPN offers well-designed clients for a wide range of devices and operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Smart TVs, PlayStation, Xbox, and routers. Advanced browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox also offer much more than typical proxy extensions, including WebRTC leak prevention, location spoofing technology, and support for HTTPS Everywhere.

The VPN service comes with a host of technical security features. ExpressVPN operates on its own zero-knowledge DNS servers to protect your private web traffic and online activity data. There is first-rate encryption technology, including AES-256 bit encryption as standard, to ensure your online activities are protected from hackers and cybercriminals.

There is also a smart split tunneling feature that allows you to choose the apps that run through the ExpressVPN connection and those that bypass it and run through your normal ISP internet connection. This is helpful if some apps are not compatible with the VPN service or you want to ensure optimal connection speeds without a VPN connection.

ExpressVPN offers an eye-watering network of over 3,000 servers located in 160 cities across 94 countries worldwide. Most servers are located in Europe and the United States; however, there are also sufficient server locations in Asia, Africa, and more.

ExpressVPN provides a clear, transparent no-logging policy to reassure users that it does not store any sensitive identifying information or personal data. Unlike many other VPN services, ExpressVPN goes into comprehensive detail to explain exactly what the VPN does and doesn’t store. ExpressVPN has also completed multiple independent security audits to back up its privacy claims further. The audit was carried out by renowned security company PricewaterhouseCoopers and is available to read.

With any VPN service, it is important to have an excellent customer service team on hand if any issues arise. Although ExpressVPN is extremely reliable, you may still require assistance from time to time. The VPN offers a reliable live-chat option that experienced, knowledgeable support agents man.

Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN

If you sign up for the monthly rolling contract with Private Internet Access, it will cost you $11.95, which is average among VPN providers, although not hugely affordable. If you opt for the Private Internet access 1-year option, the monthly price will fall to $3.33 a month. However, as with any VPN service, the most cost-effective option is the longest-term plan. With the PIA VPN 3-year option, the monthly price comes in at just $2.19 a month, which is extremely affordable.

PIA VPN comes with excellent security features too. There is support for first-rate VPN protocols, including OpenVPN and WireGuard. There is also the option to choose your data encryption level and select your desired data authentication and handshake methods. All of the PIA VPN apps are open-source, which means that developers have been heavily scrutinized for vulnerabilities and issues.

There is a reliable integrated kill switch to protect your private data if the VPN connection ever fails for any reason. Without a kill switch, if your VPN connection dropped, your actual IP address and unencrypted data may become exposed. The kill switch will cut your internet connection until you are reconnected to the VPN to ensure your privacy and anonymity are always protected.

ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN: Pricing

ExpressVPN offers a simple pricing structure with 3 different subscription plans. If you opt for the monthly subscription option, you will be charged $12.95 a month for a rolling contract. Although this is not extremely cheap, it is average among VPN services.

Signing up for the ExpressVPN 6-month subscription plan will cut the price to $9.99 a month, which is a significant discount. A 6-month subscription option is rarely seen among other VPN providers, and it does mean you have more flexibility. The 12-month subscription plan reduces the monthly cost even more, to just $8.32 a month. This is a significant 35% discount when compared to the rolling monthly subscription plan.

Although Private Internet Access is priced slightly lower than ExpressVPN, it is necessary to consider whether it may be worth the additional investment. ExpressVPN offers an unrivaled VPN service that comes with a range of advanced features.

When it comes to payment methods, users have a large selection to choose from. There are typical payment options such as PayPal and credit cards and the option to pay with Bitcoin, AliPay, WebMoney, Yandex Money, and more. It is good to see that the provider offers the option to pay with Bitcoin, as this can ensure your VPN activity is completely anonymous and untraceable.

If you are looking for a free trial, sign up for the ExpressVPN mobile or iOS app to receive 7 days free. All of the ExpressVPN subscription plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee for additional peace of mind. This means that you can thoroughly test the VPN service risk-free for a month before committing to a paid subscription plan. However, it is necessary to note that the guarantee is only available once.

Canceling your subscription is easy though, simply contact the support team and request a refund. As long as it is still within the 30-days, you will receive your full refund, no questions asked.

Private Internet Access offers three different subscription plans. There is a 1-month, 6-month, and 1-year option. The monthly plan is only $1 cheaper than ExpressVPN’s offering, at $11.95 a month. The 6-month option comes in at $6.65 a month, which is cheaper than any ExpressVPN plan. The PIA VPN 1-year plan offers an incredibly affordable VPN product that comes in at just $3.33 a month. This means that if your main priority when choosing a VPN is affordability, PIA VPN is the best option.

There is no free trial with PIA VPN, which is disappointing. However, there is a 30-day money-back guarantee. There is an extensive list of payment options, including credit cards and anonymous payment methods, including cryptocurrencies and gift cards. So, if you are looking for an anonymous, cheap VPN, PIA is a great option.

ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN: Server locations

ExpressVPN offers an extensive range of server locations across Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Peru, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela; Middle East and African locations in Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Kenya, and South Africa; Asia Pacific servers in Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Uzbekistan.

As well as European locations in Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Jersey, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and the UK.

Private Internet Access VPN offers servers in the United States (14 locations), Canada (4 locations), United Kingdom (4 locations), Australia (3 locations), Germany (2 locations), Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Romania, Japan, Singapore, Czech Republic, Belgium, Sweden, New Zealand, Mexico, Spain, Austria, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Finland, Israel, Hong Kong, Portugal, Poland, India, Taiwan, Iceland, Luxembourg, Ukraine, Albania, Brazil, Lithuania, Greece, Latvia, Andorra, Panama, Greenland, Nigeria, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Cambodia, North Macedonia, Philippines, Serbia, Slovakia, Turkey, Vietnam, Bulgaria, Estonia, Egypt, Algeria, Venezuela, Bahamas, Hungary, Isle of Man, Liechtenstein, Saudi Arabia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Argentina, Montenegro, Mongolia, Macao, Malta, Bangladesh, Moldova, Armenia, China, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, Morocco, Monaco, Qatar, and Georgia.

ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN: Privacy

All of the best VPN providers offer excellent levels of user privacy, and ExpressVPN is no different. The VPN operates on 4096-bit SHA 512 RSA certificate as well as military-grade AES-256 bit encryption as standard. There is also HMAC to protect against real-time regular data alteration.

For an additional level of privacy and security protection, the VPN provider also employs Perfect Forward Secrecy technology to ensure a new encryption key is created at the start of every virtual private network session and every hour after that. This ensures that even if your VPN session became compromised, the attacker would only receive access to 60 minutes of data before their connection is lost.

ExpressVPN also offers a range of obfuscated servers too. This masks the fact that you are using a VPN server connection to overcome VPN blocks and firewalls in schools and universities that may prohibit Virtual Private Network use.

PIA is another great VPN for users concerned about their online privacy and security. The provider supports first-rate OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols. OpenVPN operates on AES-128 encryption as standard, but this can be increased to AES-256 in the settings. There are RSA-2408 and RSA-4096 data authentication and handshake methods too. To prevent DNS data leaks, the provider operates its own DNS servers, although there is also the option to change this.

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ExpressVPN vs PIA VPN: Security

ExpressVPN operates its own zero-knowledge encrypted DNS on all of its servers. This means that more vulnerable methods such as OpenDNS or third-party DNS services are not necessary. ExpressVPN ensures complete DNS leak protection to ensure your private online data or real IP address never leaks out of the encrypted virtual private network tunnel. ExpressVPN also operates its own zero-knowledge encrypted DNS on all of its servers.

All of the ExpressVPN servers use RAM-only memory. This method of data storage is much more secure than traditional hard-drive storage. RAM servers cannot physically save user data after they are shut down, which means your private information will never be stored.

If your Virtual Private Network server connection drops for any reason, there is a chance that your actual IP address and private internet data are leaked. So, it is reassuring that both PIA and ExpressVPN offer reliable kill-switches. A kill switch will work to cut your internet connection until you are reconnected to the VPN. Without a kill switch, you may be browsing or torrenting for a long time before realizing that you weren’t connected to the virtual private network.

All PIA clients are open-source, which means that developers have heavily scrutinized them for vulnerabilities, leaks, or bugs. This means you can rest assured of the security of the PIA software. PIA offers extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera too. The Chrome extension offers a range of additional security features, including ad, tracker, and third-party cookie blocking technology.

ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN: Data logging

Many VPNs claim that they do not log user data, but often their privacy policies are less than transparent or reveal that the service does, in fact, log some user information. Thankfully, ExpressVPN is different. The company argues that user privacy is a fundamental right and states that it never stores or shares user connection logs.

If you require more detailed information about the provider’s no-logging policy, a clearly written statement explains exactly what information ExpressVPN logs and what it doesn’t. ExpressVPN doesn’t log user IP addresses, connection timestamps, assigned IP addresses, information about the websites you visit, DNS requests, or any data traffic.

There is a minimal amount of logging. The service does note the date of users’ connections to the virtual private network and their choice of server. However, because there is no recording of connection times or allocated IP addresses, there is no way to use this information to link any internet activity back to a particular user or ExpressVPN account. ExpressVPN also stores your Virtual Private Network client’s version number as well as the amount of bandwidth you have used each day. However, this data storage does not pose a privacy risk.

ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, a country that enjoys excellent data privacy laws. This means that ExpressVPN is not compelled to store or release any user data upon request by the authorities. The British Virgin Islands is not part of the 14 Eyes intelligence alliance, which is reassuring.

The provider’s logging and privacy policies are excellent, and it is clear that ExpressVPN works hard to ensure its users’ privacy is protected. You do not have to just take ExpressVPN’s word for it either, as its privacy policy and systems have been audited and confirmed by security company PricewaterhouseCoopers. The report is freely available for users to download and read.

PIA also confidently claims that it does not log web traffic information or users’ activity. The company releases a Transparency Report which details any official requests for data and the information handed over. The latest report reveals no logs were produced for any requests. PIA states that it doesn’t log any user data of any kind. However, it is disappointing that, unlike ExpressVPN and NordVPN, PIA has not yet completed an independent audit of its policies and services.

ExpressVPN vs PIA VPN: Streaming

Many users download VPNs to access geo-restricted content on streaming sites such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Disney+, and more. Therefore, VPNs must offer excellent unblocking capabilities, wide server coverage, and fast connection speeds to enable users to watch their favorite content in high-definition, without lag or buffering.

ExpressVPN is one of the best VPNs for accessing Netflix. The Virtual Private Network successfully unlocks a range of Netflix locations, including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Japan, and France. It can also access Amazon Prime Video in the United States with ease. Most VPNs can easily unblock YouTube, and ExpressVPN had no issues there either. It was also able to overcome VPN blocks on Disney+.

BBC iPlayer is one of the most difficult streaming services for VPNs to access. It may take a few attempts on different servers, but ExpressVPN is usually successful at accessing it. If you struggle to access any streaming site with ExpressVPN, we recommend trying a few different servers before contacting the customer support team for assistance.

Also, it is useful to note that ExpressVPN also offers a dedicated Smart DNS feature called MediaStreamer that enables users to watch streaming content on devices that don’t typically support a virtual private network connection, such as smart TVs and gaming consoles.

PIA successfully accessed YouTube; however, this is not surprising considering its protection is relatively weak. The BBC iPlayer is typically more difficult to access, and PIA was, unfortunately, unable to overcome geo-restrictions there.

The service was successful at accessing the United States and UK Netflix libraries on a variety of servers. However, it did fail to unblock Netflix Japan and Canada. It may take a few attempts on different servers to access Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ with PIA, but it usually gains access to these streaming services.

So, if you are looking for the best all-around streaming VPN, ExpressVPN is likely the best option thanks to its fast speeds, ease of use, dedicated Smart DNS, and ability to access all popular streaming sites. However, if you are looking for a more affordable option and are not fans of UK streaming content, PIA is not a bad choice.

ExpressVPN vs PIA VPN: Torrenting

Both ExpressVPN and PIA are excellent VPNs for torrenting fans. Neither service places limitations on P2P traffic, meaning that every server is optimized for safe torrenting. Even though ExpressVPN does not obviously advertise its support for torrenting, it offers complete P2P server coverage.

This means that there is no need to waste time looking for a dedicated P2P server because any ExpressVPN server you choose will be suitable for torrenting. Also, because all of the ExpressVPN servers support torrenting, no single server will become overwhelmed or congested by too many users ensuring fast connection speeds.

There is a split tunneling feature too, which is helpful if certain apps do not work with a virtual private network connection. This means that you can choose which apps run through the ExpressVPN server connection, such as your torrenting client, as well as those that bypass it and utilize your normal ISP internet connection.

With ExpressVPN, there are no bandwidth limitations, and you will never suffer from connection throttling. Thanks to the excellent ExpressVPN security features such as a reliable kill-switch, IPv6 leak protection, and anonymous payment options, your torrenting activities will remain completely safe and anonymous.

PIA is a great torrenting VPN too. There are no restrictions on torrenting traffic, and you can choose any of the PIA servers. There is even support for port forwarding, which may help you connect to the internet from behind a NAT firewall to improve torrenting connection speeds. PIA supports anonymous payments with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, meaning that you can keep your torrenting activities completely anonymous.

ExpressVPN vs PIA VPN: Setup

For beginner users, setting up a virtual private network can be overwhelming. However, ExpressVPN has made installing and setting up its VPN product easy. Unlike other VPNs, to install ExpressVPN, you will need to sign up for an account first, but after that, the setup process is quick and simple.

On the ExpressVPN homepage, the website will detect the device you are using and offer a relevant client link. If you need to download a different one, you can choose from the navigation bar’s selection. ExpressVPN offers 6 simultaneous connections across various devices, including macOS, Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux. There is also the option to download the Android version’s APK files, use a QR code, or even email yourself a download link if you need to set up the VPN on another device.

Once you have downloaded and installed the ExpressVPN client on your devices, you will be asked to verify your account with a verification code. This means you do not need to enter your ExpressVPN login details, username, or password, which is useful. If you want to use a different client, there are ExpressVPN OVPN configuration files available too. Should you run into difficulties while using the Virtual Private Network service, there is an excellent ExpressVPN customer support service available too.

Signing up for the PIA VPN service is simple too. On the website, you will be redirected to the Download page, where there are links to download Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS PIA clients, as well as the Chrome, Firefox, and Opera PIA browser extensions.

There are more than just PIA file links too. Click on the PIA Windows client, and you will be directed to the client installer as well as a setup guide. There is also the option to choose between 32 and 64-bit Windows builds. If a recent PIA update causes an issue on your device, you can download a previous client version.

The PIA website displays a list of client changelogs, too, and PIA explains every update. Expert Virtual Private Network users will also have the option to download the Android APK file, enabling manual PIA installation on devices when necessary. If you are setting up a third-party app, there are OpenVPN PIA configuration files that are easy to use. PIA also offers separate downloads for different OpenVPN encryption settings too.

Overall, both ExpressVPN and PIA offer rapid and simple setup processes. However, ExpressVPN’s activation code process allows users to set up the client without manually entering login details, which is somewhat simpler.

ExpressVPN vs PIA VPN: Desktop

ExpressVPN features a simple desktop VPN app that is well-designed and easy to use. The main interface displays the automatically selected Smart Location and a large ON/OFF button for a quick connection. If you just want to connect to the Virtual Private Network, simply click that button and enjoy completely private internet access.

If you click on the chosen location, a complete list of servers and a search box will be displayed, enabling you to choose a different server. There are Favorites and Recents features too for easy access to your most-used servers. On Windows and macOS, you can access your last three server locations from the menu bar without opening the client.

There is little information about connection speeds, download speeds, or latency on the server list. However, there is a connection speed test built-in to enable you to check the data of a particular server easily. In Settings, you will have access to a choice of Virtual Private Network protocols, including Lightway, OpenVPN UDP and TCP, L2TP/IPSec, and IKEv2. There is also the option to activate the kill-switch here as well as IP and DNS leak protection. There is a split tunneling feature, too, allowing you to choose which apps run through the encrypted VPN tunnel and those that don’t.

Installing the PIA desktop clients is simple. There are separate download pages for every client, and each includes a setup guide and changelog displaying the changes that have been made to the client over time. If you want to use your own client instead of the dedicated PIA one, there are OpenVPN configuration files available too.

As soon as you have installed the PIA desktop client and you have entered your payment details, there is a large Connect button that will automatically connect you to the best available PIA server in terms of connection speed and proximity. You can also choose a server from the city and country list, which also displays each server’s connection speed, ping time, and expected latency.

In the Setting section, you can choose between OpenVPN over WireGuard or UDP over TCP. There is also an option to set up a custom port, choose between AES-128 and AES-256 encryption levels, SHA1 or SHA256 authentication methods, and RSA-2048 or RSA-4096 handshake methods. The PIA client features a Small Packets option, too, to enhance reliability if your connection speed is low.

The PIA desktop app includes a built-in kill-switch that will cut your internet connection if your Virtual Private Network fails for any reason. This ensures that no unencrypted data or your real IP address ever become exposed. There is the option to use a command-line client called “piactl,” too. This allows you to configure the VPN by using a script and means that you can set up your VPN to activate and deactivate at certain times throughout the day.

ExpressVPN vs PIA VPN: Mobile

The ExpressVPN Android and iOS mobile clients operate similarly to the provider’s desktop versions. Both are available to download from the relevant app stores. Setup is quick and simple on both Android and iOS, simply enter your activation code and accept some terms and conditions.

Both clients offer a range of extra features that go beyond simple Virtual Private Network protection. There is an address checker, DNS and WebRTC leak tester, and a password generator. However, neither iOS nor Android offers the option to use speed tests which are available on desktop.

The iOS client has a few limitations due to Apple restrictions. This means that there is no kill switch or split tunneling feature, both available on the Android version. However, there is an automatic VPN reconnection option, which is similar to a kill switch. Although the mobile apps lack some advanced features, such as setting up your own DNS servers, they are powerful and well-designed.

PIA offers mobile apps for iPhone and Android. There is the option to set up PIA on up to 10 simultaneous connections on a single plan, which is more than most other VPN services offer. The PIA Android app is simple but well-designed and features a large ON/OFF button, your actual IP address, and chosen Virtual Private Network server on the main display. A list of PIA servers offers indicators of expected speeds and latency, helping you choose the server.

The iOS app is similar to the Android version. A Network Management feature allows you to select certain networks that are automatically trusted or untrusted. This means you could use the feature to activate the VPN when you are at the gym and disable it once you arrive home. There is support for Siri too, so you can activate and deactivate the VPN using voice commands.

PIA’s mobile apps are extremely configurable. The Settings section offers an extensive list of options. You can select between OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEv2 protocols and choose from 4 OpenVPN encryption methods, 2 authentication methods, and 6 handshaking options. There is also the option to set up a custom DNS server or port and choose between OpenVPN UDP and TCP connections.

The mobile apps both offer integrated kill switch that works in the same way as the desktop version. If the virtual private network drops for any reason, the kill switch will automatically cut your VPN server connection until the connection is re-established. This is impressive especially considering that most VPN providers do not offer a kill switch on their mobile clients.

ExpressVPN vs PIA VPN: Browser extensions

ExpressVPN offers browser extensions for both Chrome and Firefox. They are not simply proxy extensions but a complete virtual private network in your browser. This does mean that you need to install the standard client too, but it offers a range of extra benefits. It will not be necessary to switch between windows to change settings. There is also HTTPS Everywhere, protection against HTML5 geolocation from revealing your real location, and WebRTC blocking technology.

PIA offers decent browser extensions too, for Chrome, Opera, and Firefox. This means that you can connect to PIA straight from your browser. However, it will only protect your browser traffic, which is important to note. The browser extension operates in a similar way to the other clients, ensuring ease of use.

The interface features a large Connect button, allowing you to connect to the closest available server automatically. There is a full list of server locations too, with latency indicators if required. There is a Favorites system too, allowing you to save your most used servers in one place.

ExpressVPN vs PIA VPN: Customer support

Both ExpressVPN and PIA offer excellent, easy-to-use virtual private network products. However, problems may arise from time to time. Thus, it is important to know that a reliable customer support team is available when you need assistance.

ExpressVPN offers an extensive range of support guides and setup articles that are comprehensive but easy to read. Each client has a dedicated setup guide too, which is useful. But, if you do not have time to read through the provider’s articles, there is a 24/7 live-chat support option too which experienced and helpful agents man.

PIA offers a support center with a range of troubleshooting and setup articles; however, they are not as detailed as those offered by ExpressVPN. If you need additional assistance, there is a support ticket system and a 24/7 live chat option. With the support ticket, you will typically receive a response in a few hours.

ExpressVPN vs PIA VPN: Overall

PIA is an excellent, easy-to-use VPN that comes with a range of advanced features at an extremely affordable price, as long as you are happy to commit to a longer-term plan. However, PIA cannot compete with ExpressVPN when it comes to consistency and content unblocking capabilities. Therefore, if you are looking for the best overall VPN service and don’t mind investing a little extra, we recommend ExpressVPN.

Author Cliff Durward

Hey guys, I'm Cliff! I live in Cleveland, Ohio with my wife and my kids. I love cybersecurity and I've been writing about it for a decade!
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PrivacySharks » ExpressVPN vs PIA
Last updated: April 14, 2021