ExpressVPN vs PIA

ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access are both popular VPN services for many users around the world. However, in this comparison between ExpressVPN and PIA, I only recommend one of the two providers as there is a clear winner.

If you’re not a VPN expert like us, comparing two specific packages might be like the meme in The Office: Companies need you to find the differences between the two, even if they are the same image. But don’t worry, that’s where we come in. Both Private Internet Access and ExpressVPN are at the top of the VPN charts. Here, we’ve broken down why one or the other might be better for you, depending on your needs.

Introduction to ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN has been in our VPN rankings for a while now and has proven its place time and time again. If you check out our review of ExpressVPN, you’ll see that there’s almost nothing we don’t like about it. It’s fast, easy to use, and with shared tunnel management, it’s a sought-after and rare feature.

Introduction to PIA

Private Internet Access or PIA often ranks high in our rankings and is a well-known brand like ExpressVPN, but it always has some flaws. In our review of PIA VPN, we saw that it falls a bit short in terms of streaming performance and server location.

Recently, PIA made some updates to its software to add shared tunneling, which is one of the unique advantages ExpressVPN has over most of its competitors. With this change, PIA has started to encroach on ExpressVPN’s territory. Therefore, we thought it would be appropriate to have a head-to-head race between ExpressVPN and PIA to see if ExpressVPN can defend its split-tunneling crown.

How to Choose a VPN

Many factors come into play when choosing a VPN. And since different VPNs have different specifications, you need to determine what’s most important to you.

Some VPNs prioritize high speeds over advanced security features. The above show some of the different features between ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access VPN.

Note: That PIA has a pretty good connection speed, but ExpressVPN takes the crown for the fastest speed. In this comparison, we’ll go into detail about the most important factors to consider when buying a VPN.

We take a look at how both providers – ExpressVPN and PIA – fare in each category. We hope that by the end of the review, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed buying decision.

Features

Features ExpressVPN PIAVPN

Simultaneous Connections

3
10

Operating System Apps

Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV/Firestick, some routers
Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux

Manual Install Devices

Some Routers, Set-Top Boxes
Some Routers

Free Extras

Media Streamer Smart DNS, Browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari
SOCKS5 Proxy and ad/tracker blocker

Both ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access (PIA) offer a high level of application compatibility. They have native clients for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, and even Fire TV.

There are even browser extensions for Google Chrome and Firefox. However, router support for Apple TV gives ExpressVPN an edge over PIA.

The BVI-based vendor is the only one in the market to offer native apps for DD-WRT and Tomato routers, while also offering pre-configured routers at a reasonable price

Split tunnels are available in ExpressVPN’s desktop app, but not in any of PIA’s apps. This is very concerning, as the feature is critical for torrents and streaming media.

However, PIA makes up for this by offering multiple simultaneous connections. ExpressVPN only offers 3 simultaneous connections, while PIA offers 10 multiple connections.

Winner for Features: ExpressVPN

Speed Test

If you go to our article on the fastest VPN, you will see that ExpressVPN and PIA have been the two fastest VPNs for quite some time. Today, however, both VPNs perform a bit worse compared to their usual performance. This could be due to increased traffic due to recent events, but whatever the reason, it seems to have affected both VPN services to some extent.

ExpressVPN Speed Test

Server Locations Ping Download Speed Upload Speed

Without VPN

7ms
285.38 Mbps
345.61 Mbps

USA

12ms
141.83 Mbps
143.92 Mbps

UK

75ms
203.24 Mbps
190.62 Mbps

Hong Kong

217ms
91.23 Mbps
185.19 Mbps

Israel

145ms
58.14 Mbps
24.87 Mbps

Switzerland

104ms
131.34 Mbps
168.71 Mbps

ExpressVPN also showed lower ping times, except at one location. Both ping times and download speed had a much greater impact on the average user experience than upload speeds, which above a certain minimum improved performance mainly when uploading large files.

The performance of each VPN worst server is also a crucial factor in this category. ExpressVPN outgoing Israel, which still performs well, seems to be fast and responsive. ExpressVPN gets over 50Mbps of bandwidth, which is more than enough for HD streaming.

The weakest link in the PIA, however, is Switzerland. Here we saw only 3Mbps, which made web browsing very slow, and streaming was only possible at very low resolutions. ExpressVPN won most sites in terms of download speeds and ping times, and generally felt much better in terms of responsiveness and load times.

Winner for Speed: ExpressVPN

Server

Providers Server Locations Server Countries IP Address

ExpressVPN

148
94
1500

Private Internet Access

30
30
3236

PIA has over 3,300 servers, which is even more than ExpressVPN, but they are limited to 30 countries. ExpressVPN has over 2,000 servers in 94 countries (which is still a lot).

Winner for Server: ExpressVPN

Compatibility

Devices ExpressVPN PIAVPN

Windows

Yes
Yes

MacOS

Yes
Yes

Android

Yes
Yes

iOS

Yes
Yes

Linux

Yes
Yes

Chrome

Yes
Yes

Safari

No
No

Opera

No
Yes

Samsung & LG Smart TV

Yes
No

Playstation & Xbox

Yes
Yes

Roku

Yes
Yes

Kodi

Yes
Yes

Router

Yes
Yes

Both VPN are compatible with regular devices, but ExpressVPN goes the extra mile to support other devices. While PIA VPN only supports devices running Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, Linux, routers, and some browsers, ExpressVPN even supports smart TV devices like Samsung smart TV and LG smart TV. All in all, ExpressVPN is more comprehensive than PIA VPN in terms of compatibility.

Winner for Compatibility: ExpressVPN

Customer Care

I didn’t know I had to sign up on ExpressVPN website to download the app, so I chatted with customer service. The chat representative I dealt with was very quick. He gave me detailed answers to my questions.

PIA also has chat support. Unfortunately, it is only available to paying customers, so anyone who wants to inquire about the service is out of luck. However, my experience with PIA’s chat support was good.

If you want to know what each VPN offers in terms of customer support, check out the table below.

Features ExpressVPN PIAVPN

Live Chat

Yes
Yes

Email and Ticket Support

Yes
Yes

Phone Support

No
No

Online Knowledge Base

Yes
Yes

Average Response Time

45 Minutes
39 Minutes

Winner for Customercare: ExpressVPN

Bittorrent Support

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

Depending on where you live and what kind of files you share, this activity can be considered legal, illegal or simply undesirable.

Many ISPs now block P2P file sharing activity on their networks, even when legitimate individuals and businesses are using the technology legally.

But ISPs can’t block what they can’t see. VPNs are a great tool to protect your BitTorrent activities from the eyes of ISPs, law enforcement agencies and content providers.

ExpressVPN allows BitTorrenting on all servers. The service even offers a helpful guide on its website that explains how its service protects you during file-sharing activities.

Private Internet Access also allows torrenting on all of their servers and, like ExpressVPN, does not log your online activity when you connect to their servers. A PIA customer service representative told me, “We don’t know and don’t care what you do with our service. 

Winner for BitTorrent Support: ExpressVPN

Company Background & Jurisdiction: A Comparison of PIA and ExpressVPN

For every VPN I’ve tested and reviewed on this site, I’ve done a thorough background check to see if there are any skeletons in the closet.

Private Internet Access Background – Private Internet Access has been the top VPN service for many years, perhaps peaking in 2017, but a lot has changed since then. Based on my testing and observations, PIA has gone downhill in recent years. Many people cancelled their subscriptions and voiced their concerns on various forums.

Then in 2019, PIA announced that it was being sold to CapTech. The sale of PIA to Kape was quite concerning considering Kape’s background:

  • Kape (formerly known as Crossrider) had previously created malware and infected computers via software packages.
  • Crossrider changed its name to Kape to distance itself from its controversial past.
  • Kape also includes CyberGhost, ZenMate VPN and now Private Internet Access.

Do you want to trust your security and traffic to a company with a history of dealing with malware? Trust is subjective, of course, but we would no longer recommend a VPN that belongs to Kape/Crossrider, which includes PIA, CyberGhost and Zenmate.

Unlike PIA, ExpressVPN has not announced any mergers or acquisitions with other cybersecurity companies. It’s a big player in the VPN space and I don’t see it being acquired or merged anytime soon. I will be the first to report if there are any changes.

PIA’s jurisdiction. The US is the land of five eyes, which is bad for privacy. There have been several cases where U.S. tech companies have been forced to record and hand over customer data, while at the same time being prohibited from disclosing it due to gag orders. See, for example, the Lavabit and Riseup cases (an email and VPN service). There was also a case where IPVanish was forced to log user data for the FBI, despite claiming to be a “zero-log” VPN.

ExpressVPN background – In my research, I found that ExpressVPN has an impeccable background. It has been around for many years and is growing worldwide, gaining more and more users. Unlike IPVanish, ExpressVPN has no scandals or user privacy issues. Instead, it has been audited several times to further strengthen trust.

ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands. The BVI is a large offshore jurisdiction that is not part of any regulatory body, but is politically and legally immune from outside influence.

Winner for Company Background & Jurisdiction: ExpressVPN

Netflix and Streaming Performance

It’s no secret that most people subscribe to a VPN service to watch geo-blocked content. However, once your favorite streaming site blocks your VPN, things can get really ugly (and you still have 10 months left on your subscription).

To avoid this, you need to choose a VPN that can bypass geo-restrictions for a long time like ExpressVPN.

To my great delight, it was able to unblock all the streaming sites I tested. It works with US Netflix, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, and even DAZN (which usually resists VPN providers’ efforts). It’s also worth noting that ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer feature can help you watch geo-blocked content on your smartphone or almost any other device that doesn’t support VPN.

Now, let’s move on to private Internet access. The situation is rather sad: it didn’t work as well as ExpressVPN, and I couldn’t access Netflix’s US and UK libraries (although the site didn’t display an error message). Surprisingly, I was able to watch geo-blocked Indian Netflix content (which is still better than nothing).

I also had no luck with DAZN or BBC iPlayer. However, I was able to watch geo-blocked YouTube content (which isn’t that impressive, since virtually all VPNs can do that).

All in all, it’s clear that those who want to watch geo-blocked movies and shows should choose ExpressVPN over a private Internet access VPN.

Winner for Netflix and Streaming Performance: ExpressVPN

Installation and Initial Configuration

Are these VPNs easy to install? If you are a complete beginner, are there any guides that can help you? And how long does it take to set everything up? Let’s take a look!

  • ExpressVPN: This VPN has a central dashboard on its website. From here, you can download the app, view the setup instructions (written in a user-friendly tone), and more. You will also receive an activation code that you can use to quickly log into the VPN app. All in all, the entire process will only take a few minutes of your time. Besides, it is suitable for absolute beginners.
  • Private Internet Access: But this is no longer the case. Today, you simply download the app from the website and install it – just like any other software. There are no surprises, and everything works smoothly. There’s even a handy guide that shows you how to use the app.

Winner for Installation and Initial Configuration: ExpressVPN

Unblocking

ExpressVPN has the edge when it comes to bypassing geoblocking. Major platforms like Netflix and BBC iPlayer have added geoblocking features recently. As a result, only the biggest VPNs can afford to invest the time and resources to find solutions that allow reliable access to them outside of the desired broadcast area.

Services ExpressVPN PIAVPN

Netflix

Yes
No

BBC iPlayer

Yes
No

Prime Video

Yes
No

Playstation

Yes
No

Works in China

Yes
Yes

Important Note: Although private Internet access is technically capable of bypassing the Great Firewall of China, the company admits that providing consistent connectivity both domestically and abroad is extremely difficult. As a result, it is sometimes blocked and should not be considered reliable.

Winner for Unblocking: ExpressVPN

Security and Privacy

Private Internet Access, or PIA, is one of the leading VPN providers when it comes to security and privacy. For this reason, and because of its aggressive no-logging policy and 256-bit AES encryption, PIA is popular with many users and also supports IP stealth. It is your IP address that identifies you when you are on the Internet. When you visit a website, PIA gives you a different IP address, which changes constantly as you use the Internet. This means that you won’t visit websites with the same address, which can make it easier to track you online. Other security features include a kill switch and a firewall.

ExpressVPN is close to PIA in terms of security and privacy. It also supports IP cloaking and an anti-logging policy, so you can be sure that your online interactions won’t be tracked by the VPN. ExpressVPN also supports AES 256-bit encryption. Like PIA, ExpressVPN also has a kill switch. This sounds ominous, but it actually just means that the VPN will terminate your Internet connection if something goes wrong with the VPN’s security. As a result, you can stop browsing or streaming on the Internet without protection and log back in or connect to another VPN server.

Winner For Security and Privacy: Tie

China and Restricted Countries

ExpressVPN and PIA can also be used in China. However, according to user reports, ExpressVPN is slightly more reliable at bypassing the Great Firewall of China. It doesn’t help that PIA has very few servers in Asia. This means that users in China will have to deal with slower connection speeds. That said, you may still be able to use it.

PIA’s Shadowsocks product resolves itself. This disguises VPN traffic and makes it harder for the government to detect and block. If you want to get online in China, such a feature is essential.

It’s also strange that ExpressVPN doesn’t have a “stealth mode” feature, which is a must if you’re looking for a VPN for China. It also lacks additional security features like Tor over VPN, etc. PIA offers Tor over VPN, which works without any issues, although it slows down the connection speed.

Despite the negatives, ExpressVPN is better, judged purely on reliability. So why the tiebreaker?

Well, although ExpressVPN is legally based in the British Virgin Islands, it has long been rumored to be a product of Hong Kong-based Network Guard (formerly Chengbao). Whether or not this is true, ownership could be a big problem for ExpressVPN as China tries to take control of Hong Kong.

Winner for China And Restricted Countries: ExpressVPN

Pricing Plans

ExpressVPN offers three simple plans, one for all needs.

The biggest savings can be found with the annual plan, which offers a 49% savings compared to monthly payments. As an added bonus, ExpressVPN offers three free months, so you can use the plan for a total of 15 months. The cost of the plan is $6.67 per month with an upfront payment of $99.95

ExpressVPN also offers a six-month plan for $9.99 per month. The cost is $59.95 for a semi-annual billing plan

Finally, there is a 1-month plan costs $12.95 per month.

Private Internet Access also offers three different plans.

You can save up to 67% if you sign up for an annual plan and pay upfront. The annual plan costs $4.16 per month. Currently, the price is $49.95

However, we are not sure how long this offer will last. The regular price is $119.40

The cheapest plan here is the two-year plan for $2.59 per month or $69.95 every two years. That’s a very reasonable price considering you also get 3 months completely free. There is also a free Boxcrypto plugin

There is also a one month plan for $11.95 per month. This is very expensive, almost as expensive as ExpressVPN’s monthly package, which costs $12.95

Winner for Pricing plans: PIA

Payment Options & Refund Policy

Both PIA and ExpressVPN offer reliable and seamless payment options. You can pay the monthly fee for PIA or ExpressVPN using a credit card or PayPal. However, we recommend that you avoid using Bitcoin as you cannot get a refund if you pay with Bitcoin. ExpressVPN customer service representatives have told us that PayPal is a better option and we have not had any issues with refunds.

ExpressVPN offers a one-month money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied with the service. PIA, on the other hand, falls short of ExpressVPN as they only offer a 7-day money back guarantee. Even if you compare PIA with other VPN providers, the 7-day money back guarantee is not enough. Unless PIA changes its refund policy, customers will always go with ExpressVPN.

Reliability Comparison

ExpressVPN is considered a reliable VPN service, the application works well and has no dropouts, crashes or errors. With ExpressVPN, everything is amazing, it offers consistent speeds and is more reliable.

Speaking of reliability, the private Internet access is also quite good. The application works well, with no errors, crashes or other issues. And PIA VPN offers constant speeds as well.

So when it comes to reliability, both VPNs stand out. Both ExpressVPN and PIA do their best to provide the best service. And based on that, we’ll call this comparison a draw.

Available Browser Extensions

In addition to the software that can be installed on your device, some VPNs offer browser extensions that allow you to control the VPN from your browser. You can connect or disconnect and choose a location-specific server to connect to without leaving your web browser.

ExpressVPN plugin is available for all major browsers: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari. When you connect, the extension displays a green checkmark in the toolbar, and you can quickly disconnect from the VPN by clicking this icon, or select a new country to connect to.

Private Internet Access is currently only available as a browser extension for Google Chrome, but you can also use the SOCKS5 proxy server on Firefox with Foxy Proxy (see here for details). This Chrome extension is easy to use, with a simple toggle switch to turn connections on and off, and a country selector at the bottom to choose your server.
While both of these VPN have great Chrome extensions, ExpressVPN wins this round because it also offers extensions for Firefox and Safari.

Strength & Weakness of ExpressVPN

160 VPN locations: This feature is crucial for users comparing private Internet access with expressVPN. The selection of 160 VPN locations in 94 countries around the world is truly overwhelming.

256-bit encryption: With user privacy in mind, ExpressVPN uses multiple protocols, which means you can surf the web even on public networks and trust that your sensitive information is reliably protected.

Off Switch: This is another feature designed to protect users from enjoying their time online. The kill switch comes into play when the network connection to the VPN server is interrupted.

It will immediately cut off all traffic to and from your device. This eliminates the possibility of a data or IP leak if the VPN tunnel is compromised.

No logs are kept: Many people opt for a lifetime subscription to ExpressVPN because it does not keep logs of activity. So, your IP address, browsing history, etc. are deleted when you disconnect from the network.

Shared tunneling: This is a really cool feature if you need to browse the web and use another device on your network at the same time. Thanks to the ExpressVPN app, the management process is really simple and customizable.

3 Simultaneous Connections: If you use ExpressVPN at home, you can set it up on your router and enjoy automatic operation. You can connect up to 3 devices. This is also relevant if you use the internet on the go.

Supports Torrenting: Both big companies and ordinary users actively discuss peer-to-peer file sharing. The former even called for ISPs to monitor and punish P2P users, whether they are caught supporting privacy software or DMCA violations.

Access geo-blocked content from Netflix: ExpressVPN is known as one of the best VPN for Netflix. The media provider has worked hard to develop ways to detect and block VPN connections, making it impossible for millions of viewers to access their movies and TV shows.

But ExpressVPN can bypass this protection. Thanks to a large number of optimized servers and special tools, it can outsmart corporate control.

Amazing data security: Based in the British Virgin Islands, the VPN provider doesn’t have to store any user data. With such high privacy standards, you can even use this VPN for bitcoin payments.

Quite Expensive (Weakness): If you opt for this service, you will have to pay $12.95 per month, which is higher than most VPN services for Windows.

Strengths and Weaknesses of PIA

10 simultaneous connections: With this free VPN, you can connect to your iPhone from 10 sources simultaneously. These can be mobile devices as well as PCs.

User-friendly interface: The interface is really simple, but it lacks some familiar options, such as an interactive map for selecting a server location. When you log in for the first time, you will see a drop-down list of different regions and can choose the one that suits you best.

Full compatibility: PIA is compatible not only with laptop and PC, but also works on mobile devices with iOS and Android operating systems.

You can choose the connection protocol: When comparing ExpressVPN and PIA, I’d like to point out that the latter lets you choose between three connection protocols – OpenVPN, PPTP or L2TP – which may seem like a trivial option, but in fact few similar products have this feature.

Most VPNs automatically choose a protocol based on the fastest connection, which is often questionable from a security perspective. With PIA, you have full control over your choice.

PIA MACE: This free Android VPN has an ad blocker called PIA MACE. It blocks ads, trackers and malware from domains. Unlike similar tools, PIA MACE cannot whitelist specific domains or change filter settings.

PIA is one of the only verified VPN services that has not been logged and tested in practice. However, there were 2 separate court cases where this VPN provider was subpoenaed for data logging and the company could not prove any fault.

Low-cost service with 7-day money-back option: If you already have your private internet access service and find that it doesn’t quite meet your expectations, you can get your money back if you request it within one week from the date you paid for the VPN. This does not apply to upgrades, manual and automatic updates.

Insufficient privacy sovereignty (weakness) as the service is based in the US: The US government can force companies to keep logs of customer activity and take down the packaging if it asks.

It does not provide access to Netflix content (weakness): The biggest drawback of this service is that there is no way to bypass Netflix’s protection, so if you choose this service, you will never be able to enjoy the works offered by this media provider.

Which one is right for you?

Both VPN services are great options, ExpressVPN is a reviewer favorite and a solid contender for our recommendation of the best VPN service – though we update our picks often, ExpressVPN is virtually always there. But Private Internet Access is also one of our favorites and often one of our top picks. If you ask employees which VPN service they use at home, you’ll find that each of our employees has their fans.

In many ways, ExpressVPN is the gold standard of VPN services: secure, fast, and an absolute pleasure to use. ExpressVPN impressed in our testing, and we highly recommend it. For most users, ExpressVPN is the best in the VPN world.

But Private Internet Access is also the best of the VPN services, and there is hardly any difference between it and ExpressVPN. If current prices make Private Internet Access cheaper (which is often the case), then it’s worth considering. This is especially true for advanced users who want to take advantage of PIA’s various advanced options.

SAFE VPN

9.5/10

4.5/5
FAST VPN

9.6/10

4.5/5
USER FRIENDLY

9.5/10

4.5/5

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