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Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN review Australia

Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN has evolved from contender to potential usurper in the last couple of years.

Private Internet Access VPN logo
Private Internet Access VPN
4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5
Price
From AU$2.89/mth
Locations
146
Simultaneous connections
Unlimited
Nathan Lawrence
May 09, 2023
Icon Time To Read6 min read

It’s been close to a couple of years since I last checked in with the Private Internet Access (PIA) virtual private network (VPN) service. In 2021, Private Internet Access showed itself to be a contender VPN that couldn’t quite break into top-tier territory. Nowadays, it’s a much happier story. Scroll on for the in-depth review.

Private Internet Access VPN pricing and plans

Plan
Monthly price
Upfront payment
Detail
One-month PIA VPN planAU$19.79AU$19.79
6-month PIA VPN planAU$9.99AU$59.94
2-year PIA VPN planAU$2.89AU$75.14

Private Internet Access VPN plan pricing effective as of publication. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN is in such a good place these days it should be making the NordVPN/ExpressVPN duopoly nervous. PIA VPN boasts competitive 6-month and multi-year pricing, fast speeds and a massive global network of servers. If PIA improved its streaming results, resolved the Windows software issues and added manual server switching, it’d be the VPN to beat.

pro
Pros
pro Competitive long-term pricing
pro Unlimited simultaneous connections
pro Fast global servers
con
Cons
con Not so great for streaming
con Windows software quirks
con No manual server switching

Private Internet Access VPN prices and plans compared

Of the 17 VPNs I’ve reviewed, Private Internet Access ranks in the top four for best overall averaged-out pricing. While the monthly pricing barely cracks into the top 10, Private Internet Access is only behind PureVPN for best annual pricing, and a bronze medallist behind VPN Unlimited for multi-year pricing. It’s also great to see that PIA offers Australian pricing.

There isn’t really a free VPN version for PIA—not like there is from the likes of PrivadoVPN, Hotspot Shield VPN and Windscribe VPN—but there is a seven-day trial on Android and iOS devices. Outside of that, you have to pay upfront and set a calendar reminder to take advantage of the 30-day money-back guarantee if PIA isn’t for you.

Compare Private Internet Access VPN prices to other VPN prices

Brand
Price
View plans
Countries/locations
Details
From US$12.99/mo83/100+Best VPN
From AU$19.79/mo84/146Stacks of servers
From US$12.95/mo113/151Very user-friendly
From AU$19.99/mo82/112Fast speeds
From US$15.45/mo99/142Unlimited connections
From US$7.99/mth55/82Unlimited connections
From AU$79.99/yr29/29Bundles well with antivirus

Private Internet Access VPN connectivity and user experience

Private Internet Access hits the ground running in terms of user anonymity. What starts with an assigned username and password—which helps keep an email address protected in the event of a credentials leak—extends to RAM-only servers and military-grade encryption.

Most of my PIA testing was done on a Windows 11 PC, and it’s a speedy VPN when it comes to connecting and disconnecting. Admittedly, I did experience some interruptions to music streaming while switching between international servers, which suggests the one-to-two seconds of connection/disconnection time aren’t always what they seem to be.

Outside of that, PIA didn’t interfere with any of my internet-dependent software, including instant messaging, digital platforms, emails, torrenting software, network-attached storage (NAS), and anything else I threw at it. The only recurring connectivity downside was the frequency of Google reCAPTCHA requests, which was a consistent annoyance across servers in Australia, the UK and the USA. It’d also be great if PIA added the option to manually select servers or a server-switch button like PureVPN.

While automatic server selection makes it more user-friendly for VPN newcomers, it is a missed opportunity to take advantage of the 35,000-strong server network. For context, PIA has added 7,000 more servers since my initial review in 2021, which also happens to be the number of servers offered by the next largest VPN server count, CyberGhost VPN. PIA has a logical layout for its user interface, and it’s easy to use. What I loathe, though, is how PIA is relegated to the system tray with no option that I could find to treat it as a separate app window. My workaround was to use Windows taskbar settings to stick it to the system tray, which isn’t ideal.

Design gripes aside, PIA offers great transparency on your provider-assigned IP address vs the one that the VPN server has assigned, and at-a-glance server latency is a welcome touch when you go digging into the locations list. Speaking of latency, I was weirded out to see PIA saying that the Sydney servers (my location) and Brisbane servers had the same latency, then at a loss when Brisbane disappeared the next day as a location option (it eventually came back days later).

The PIA Android app is even easier to use, but I highly recommend pairing it with a password manager to make it easier for managing credentials. Credentials management is a massive pain on Android TV as, unlike other VPNs like Hotspot Shield and NordVPN, Private Internet Access doesn’t offer a simple QR code for managing the login on a smartphone. Instead, it wants you to manually enter the username and password, which is a frustrating endeavour when wielding a remote.

Private Internet Access VPN supported devices

The list of supported platforms for Private Internet Access is trickier to find than its competitors, but the PIA user portal has the following breakdown:

  • Windows (8.1, 10 and 11)
  • MacOS (10.13+, 64-bit only)
  • Linux (Ubuntu 18.04+, Mint 19+, Arch and Debian)
  • Linux Arm (as above)
  • Android (5.0+; APK available)
  • iOS (12.1+)
  • Google Chrome
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Opera
  • Amazon Fire TV

Private Internet Access also lists Chromebook, Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku, smart TVs, PlayStation consoles and Xbox consoles as supported platforms, but this is via a Smart DNS feature. While Smart DNS is a nice added extra—and one that has to be activated while the PIA VPN isn’t connected to a server—it doesn’t provide an encrypted connection for those devices, and is effectively only used for sidestepping geoblocked content.

The Smart DNS feature asks you to select the device and then a location from the following choices: Germany, UK, USA, Netherlands and Japan. Once selected, users have to manually update the DNS settings on their device of choice to take advantage of the feature. I do like that PIA lets you add multiple Smart DNS profiles, so you can feasibly configure specific devices for different supported regions.

Private Internet Access VPN speeds and streaming

Unless your internet provider is throttling your speeds, you can expect a VPN service to impact your latency and download/upload speeds. To highlight this, the table below shows the midday speeds for Private Internet Access with an Aussie Broadband 100/40Mbps Fibre-to-the-Curb (FTTC) connection.

PIA VPN server latency and speeds from Australia

VPN server
Download speed
Upload speed
Latency

No VPN

78.33Mbps

37.85Mbps

6ms

AU VPN (auto, fastest)

75.53Mbps (~3% slower)36.5Mbps (~3% slower)

6ms (no change)

US VPN (auto, fastest)

65.02Mbps (~17% slower)32.66Mbps (~14% slower)

152ms (146ms slower)

UK VPN (auto, fastest)

56.67Mbps (~28% slower)28.72Mbps (~24% slower)

267ms (261ms slower)

Private Internet Access is fast. Like, really fast. There was no change to latency between my baseline tests and a Sydney VPN test, while there was a minuscule 3% hit to overall download and upload speeds. It’s a similarly impressive story for my tests to automatically selected servers for the US and UK.

Compared to the other 16 VPNs I’ve reviewed, PIA has the best overall speed results. This translates to top-three placements for Australian download and latency; US download, upload and latency; plus, UK download. If you want a reliably fast VPN, Private Internet Access is definitely worth considering. For gamers, PIA’s low latency for Australian servers makes it a great VPN choice for gaming locally, plus it has very respectable results for those looking to play on US or UK servers.

Private Internet Access VPN streaming

For those who don’t mind running the risk of having their streaming services blocked or banned, a VPN can be used to stream content from geoblocked libraries overseas. A VPN that’s great for streaming should work across popular US, UK and Australian streaming services, loading content libraries in a timely way while buffering content quickly and without errors.

In terms of the table below, buffering speeds are rated accordingly:

  • Fast (1–5 seconds)
  • Moderate (5–15 seconds)
  • Slow (15–25 seconds)
  • Extremely slow (slower than 25 seconds)

PIA VPN performance with popular streaming services

Streaming service
PIA VPN compatible?
Buffering speed

Netflix US

Yes

Fast

HBO Max

No

N/A

Hulu

Yes

Fast

Peacock

Yes

Fast

BBC iPlayer

No

N/A

Kayo

Yes

Fast

Stan (including Stan Sport)

Yes

Fast

Private Internet Access had mixed results when I first reviewed it. Fast-forward to more recent times, and it’s slightly more reliable but still not one of the best VPNs for streaming. For Kayo Sports and Stan, PIA had excellent results, albeit with some disclaimers. Kayo didn’t work for most Australian locations, including the specialist Australian streaming servers, but it did for Brisbane. Note that the Brisbane location option did go missing for a couple of days between testing and writing this review, so hopefully that’s not a common occurrence.

US streaming was a mixed bag. I eventually got the Netflix US library to work with speedy results, but I had to jump around between locations. Even multiple US location jumps didn’t help with HBO Max streaming, which refused to work, but I had no issues with Hulu and Peacock. Like HBO Max, BBC iPlayer refused to play for any of the available UK server locations.

The table below gives you an idea of how PIA VPN might work with your NBN connection. It uses the best-case download speeds to give you an idea of how the best-case 17% and 28% download speed changes for US and UK servers, respectively, might impact your overall download speed when using Private Internet Access.

The three columns on the right offer a number of simultaneous streams per connection. While Netflix has a maximum of four simultaneous streams per 4K account Hulu and BBC iPlayer have options for unlimited streams. We know these stream numbers get ridiculous for beyond-NBN 100 plans, but they’re a good indication of speed degradation.

PIA VPN speeds for popular 4K international streaming services

NBN speed tier
Max NBN download
PIA VPN download
Netflix US 4K (25Mbps)
Hulu 4K (16Mbps)
BBC iPlayer (24Mbps)
NBN 1212Mbps9.96Mbps (US), 8.64Mbps (UK)Too slowToo slowToo slow
NBN 2525Mbps20.75Mbps (US), 18Mbps (UK)Too slow1 streamToo slow
NBN 5050Mbps41.5Mbps (US), 36Mbps (UK)1 stream2 streams1 streams
NBN 100100Mbps83Mbps (US), 72Mbps (UK)3 stream5 streams3 streams
NBN 250250Mbps207.5Mbps (US), 180Mbps (UK)4+ streams12 streams7 streams
NBN 500500Mbps415Mbps (US), 360Mbps (UK)4+ streams25 streams15 streams
NBN 1000600Mbps498Mbps (US), 432Mbps (UK)4+ streams31 streams18 streams

Should I buy Private Internet Access VPN?

Private Internet Access has come a long way. Nowadays, it holds its own against ExpressVPN and makes a strong case for using over NordVPN. With better streaming results, PIA would be a serious threat to the NordVPN crown. Private Internet Access is absolutely worth considering if you want a fast VPN with a massive server network and great versatility.

Private Internet Access VPN FAQs

No, Private Internet Access doesn’t keep logs. PIA is a legitimate and trustworthy VPN with military grade encryption, RAM servers to preserve user anonymity and an auditable zero-log policy.
There is a free seven-day trial for the iOS and Android versions of Private Internet Access. Alternatively, Private Internet Access also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee if you want to try the full version (but you have to manually cancel and request a refund).
Yes, PIA is a good VPN to use for accessing Netflix. It’s fast at loading the content library and streaming content, which applied to Australian and US Netflix libraries in our tests.
Visit the Private Internet Access website, sign up for an account, then download the Private Internet Access software or app on compatible devices.
Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence has been banging out passionate tech and gaming words for more than 11 years. These days, you can find his work on outlets like IGN, STACK, Fandom, Red Bull and AusGamers. Nathan adores PC gaming and the proof of his first-person-shooter prowess is at the top of a Battlefield V scoreboard.

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