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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.
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
|One-month PIA VPN plan||AU$15.99||AU$15.99||View plans|
|6-month PIA VPN plan||AU$9.99||AU$59.94||View plans|
|2-year PIA VPN plan||AU$2.89||AU$75.14||View plans|
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.
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 and Atlas VPN 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, Atlas 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
|From US$12.99/mo||View plans||60/83||Best VPN|
|From AU$19.79/mo||View plans||84/146||Stacks of servers|
|From US$12.95/mo||View plans||113/151||Very user-friendly|
|From AU$19.99/mo||View plans||82/112||Fast speeds|
|From US$12.95/mo||View plans||99/142||Unlimited connections|
|From US$11.99/mth||View plans||55/82||Unlimited connections|
|From AU$59.99/yr||View plans||29/29||Bundles well with antivirus|
|From €5/mo||View plans||42/70||Low fixed monthly pricing|
|From AU$18.79/mo||View plans||91/116||Balance of servers, locations|
|From US$9.99/mo||View plans||57/69||Lifetime subscription|
|From US$10.99/mo||View plans||44/59||Cheap monthly pricing|
|From US$10.95/mo||View plans||77/95||Straightforward server switching|
|From US$9.99/mo||View plans||67/90||Swiss-based anonymity|
|From AU$15.21/mo||View plans||38/46||Unlimited connections|
|From US$9.00/mo||View plans||69/112||Lifetime subscription|
|From US$9.99/mo||View plans||47/61||Solid free version|
Private Internet Access VPN connectivity and user experience
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
- 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
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
PIA VPN compatible?
Stan (including Stan Sport)
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 12||12Mbps||9.96Mbps (US), 8.64Mbps (UK)||Too slow||Too slow||Too slow|
|NBN 25||25Mbps||20.75Mbps (US), 18Mbps (UK)||Too slow||1 stream||Too slow|
|NBN 50||50Mbps||41.5Mbps (US), 36Mbps (UK)||1 stream||2 streams||1 streams|
|NBN 100||100Mbps||83Mbps (US), 72Mbps (UK)||3 stream||5 streams||3 streams|
|NBN 250||250Mbps||207.5Mbps (US), 180Mbps (UK)||4+ streams||12 streams||7 streams|
|NBN 500||500Mbps||415Mbps (US), 360Mbps (UK)||4+ streams||25 streams||15 streams|
|NBN 1000||600Mbps||498Mbps (US), 432Mbps (UK)||4+ streams||31 streams||18 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.