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ExpressVPN vs PIA

Winner: ExpressVPN

There are only a handful of VPN services like ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access (PIA), which are hugely popular among the masses. Both these providers have similar set of features alongside a massive global customer base.

 

ExpressVPN vs PIA: Head to Head Comparison

ExpressVPN is the winner!

ExpressVPN is the clear Winner over PIA because of its:

  • Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands (safer than USA)
  • Speed: 27.17 Mbps
  • Availability in China
  • Netflix Support
  • Live Chat Support

Here is a brief summary of what I explored during this comparison:

FactorsExpressVPNPIA
JurisdictionBritish Virgins IslandsUSA
Logging PolicyNo logsNo logs
Pricing $8.32/mo $3.33/mo
Speed27.17 Mbps21.4 Mbps
Server Network3,000+ servers
94 countries
3,000+ servers
29 Countries
Customer SupportLive chatEmail/form based
query submissions
TorrentingSupportedSupported
Netflix UnblockingSupportedInconsistent
SecurityStrongStrong
Websiteexpressvpn.comprivateinternetaccess.com

You can also see this VPN comparison chart to know about more other 60+ providers.

 

Pricing, Payment Options and Refund Policy

PIA is relatively cheaper than ExpressVPN but has a limited money back guarantee. Still, the US based service delivers some impressive privacy features and discounts to its users. For instance, its monthly pricing plan is available at the cost of only $6.95/month and a yearly pricing plan as low as $3.33/month.

ExpressVPNPIA
Regular Plans1-month: $12.95/mo

6-months: $9.99/mo

12-month: $8.32/mo – 35% off

1-month: $6.95/mo 30% off

6-months: $5.99/mo – 40% off

1-year: $3.33/mo – 67% off

Cheapest Plan12-months: $8.32/mo  – 35% Off1-year: $3.33/mo – 67% off
Special OffersNo Special Offers1-year offer: $3.33/mo (67%)
Money-back Guarantee30-days7-days
Payment methodsCredit cards, PayPal, Alipay, BitcoinCredit cards, PayPal & Bitcoin

On the other hand, ExpressVPN is one of the most expensive VPNs in the market. Its 1 year subscription costs $8.32/month in contrast to the lower price of PIA VPN at $3.33/month. Similarly, its 6-months and monthly plan are available at $9.99 and $12.95 per month respectively.

Finally, ExpressVPN has a 30-day money-back guarantee on all packages whereas PIA only gives a 7-day refund period. Both providers also accept all major modes of payment.

 

Privacy & Data Logging

ExpressVPN is located in a much safer jurisdiction (BVI) and has a clear logging policy than PIA. 

ExpressVPNPIA
HeadquarterBritish Virgin Islands (safe)United States
(Five Eyes – Unsafe)
Activity LogsNoNo
Connection LogsSomeNo
Anonymous PaymentYesYes

ExpressVPN was established in 2009. It is based in the British Virgin Islands, away from the watchful Five Eyes. The country has no data retention requirements on VPN providers or ISPs, which makes it ideal from the privacy point of view.

Private Internet Access (PIA) was founded in 2010, the company operates from the US, which places is directly under the spying glasses of Five Eyes. The threat of surveillance is ever-present in the US and that makes PIA’s jurisdiction a little bit of a red flag.

On logging front, ExpressVPN is a true no-logs VPN as the company has a strong policy against retaining any kind of customer information which could undermine their online privacy.

On the other hand, PIA only claims to keep no traffic logs and it is unclear if they monitor and store other types of customer information. As such, it is hard to understand their stance on privacy.

Therefore, ExpressVPN has more assuring and transparent logging policy than PIA, which makes it a stronger protector of your privacy.

 

Server Network

In terms of server spread, ExpressVPN offers 3000+ servers whereas Private Internet Access also provides similar number of servers i.e. 3000+.  The difference is, ExpressVPN is spread over a much wider region, whereas PIA’s servers are only distributed in 29 countries.

ExpressVPNPIA
Countries9429
Servers3000+3000+

As such, both providers bring true value to the table. If you only want servers in common locations in the Americas, Europe, and some of Asia and Africa, then Private Internet Access is more than adequate. Furthermore, all of the PIA servers are physical unlike ExpressVPN that has a blend of physical and virtual servers.

However, if you want a much larger range of server locations to establish connection with in order to keep your privacy hard to fool around with for any malicious user, then ExpressVPN has the better claim.

Therefore, there is no clear winner in this round. It comes down to your personal preference when choosing between these providers, if you’re going by server coverage of a VPN.

ExpressVPN vs PIA: Server Country Checklist

You can use the following table to see server locations offered by both these services:

CountryExpressVPNPIA
AfghanistanNoNo
AlbaniaYesNo
AlgeriaYesNo
AndorraYesNo
AngolaNoNo
ArgentinaYesNo
ArmeniaYesNo
ArubaNoNo
AustraliaYesYes
AustriaYesYes
AzerbaijanYesNo
BahamasYesNo
BahrainNoNo
BangladeshYesNo
BarbadosNoNo
BelarusYesNo
BelgiumYesYes
BelizeNoNo
BermudaNoNo
BhutanYesNo
BoliviaNoNo
Bosnia & HerzegovinaYesNo
BrazilYesNo
British Virgin IslandsNoNo
Brunei DarussalamYesNo
BulgariaYesNo
CambodiaYesNo
CanadaYesYes
Cape VerdeNoNo
Cayman IslandsNoNo
ChileYesNo
ChinaNoNo
ColombiaYesNo
Costa RicaYesNo
CroatiaYesNo
CyprusYesNo
Czech RepublicYesYes
DenmarkYesYes
DominicaNoNo
Dominican RepublicNoNo
EcuadorYesNo
EgyptYesNo
El SalvadorNoNo
EstoniaYesNo
EthiopiaNoNo
FinlandYesYes
FranceYesYes
GeorgiaYesNo
GermanyYesYes
GhanaNoNo
GreeceYesNo
GrenadaNoNo
GuatemalaYesNo
GuyanaNoNo
HaitiNoNo
HondurasNoNo
Hong KongYesYes
HungaryYesYes
IcelandYesNo
IndiaYesYes
IndonesiaYesNo
IrelandYesYes
Isle of ManYesNo
IsraelYesYes
ItalyYesYes
JamaicaNoNo
JapanYesYes
JerseyYesNo
JordanNoNo
KazakhstanYesNo
KenyaYesNo
KuwaitNoNo
KyrgyzstanYesNo
LaosYesNo
LatviaYesNo
LiechtensteinYesNo
LithuaniaYesNo
LuxembourgYesYes
MacauYesNo
MacedoniaYesNo
MadagascarNoNo
MalaysiaYesNo
MaltaYesNo
MauritaniaNoNo
MauritiusNoNo
MexicoYesYes
MoldovaYesNo
MonacoYesNo
MongoliaYesNo
MontenegroYesNo
MontserratNoNo
MoroccoNoNo
MyanmarYesNo
NepalYesNo
NetherlandsYesYes
New ZealandYesYes
NigerNoNo
NigeriaNoNo
NorwayYesYes
OmanNoNo
PakistanYesNo
PanamaYesNo
Papua New GuineaNoNo
ParaguayNoNo
PeruYesNo
PhilippinesYesNo
PolandYesYes
PortugalYesNo
Puerto RicoNoNo
QatarNoNo
RomaniaYesYes
Saudi ArabiaNoNo
SenegalNoNo
SerbiaYesNo
SeychellesNoNo
SingaporeYesYes
SlovakiaYesNo
SloveniaYesNo
South AfricaYesNo
South KoreaYesNo
SpainYesYes
Sri LankaYesNo
St LuciaNoNo
SurinameNoNo
SwedenYesYes
SwitzerlandYesYes
TaiwanYesNo
TajikistanYesNo
TanzaniaNoNo
ThailandYesNo
Trinidad and TobagoNoNo
TunisiaNoNo
TurkeyYesNo
TurkmenistanNoNo
Turks and Caicos IslandNoNo
UkraineYesNo
United Arab Emirates (UAE)NoYes
United Kingdom (UK)YesYes
United States (USA)YesYes
UruguayYesNo
UzbekistanYesNo
VenezuelaYesNo
VietnamYesNo

 

Speed

ExpressVPN has beaten PIA in terms of speeds by a huge margin as it offers excellent connection speeds. The BVI based VPN provider did not disappoint us while PIA offered mixed results during the speed testing phase. To test how close to your base internet connection these VPNs deliver speed, Ookla was used for speed measurement on a 30 Mbps base connection.

ExpressVPNPIA
US: 26.62 MbpsUS: 19.16 Mbps
UK: 26.68 MbpsUK: 25.78 Mbps
GER: 28.97 MbpsGER: 22.25 Mbps
AUS: 26.43 MbpsAUS: 18.4 Mbps
Avg Download: 27.17 MbpsAvg. Download: 21.4 Mbps

ExpressVPN has outperformed PIA in terms of speed. The average download speed that we received using ExpressVPN is 27.17 Mbps as compared to PIA’s 21.4 Mbps.

 

Security

Both these VPNs deliver strong security that include powerful encryption and industry standard tunneling protocols. Likewise, ExpressVPN and PIA offer same kind of tunneling protocols but the latter also provides an uncommon protocol by the name of SOCKS5 Proxy Tunnel.

Apart from this, ExpressVPN utilizes RSA-4096 key whereas PIA uses RSA-2048 key, which is nearly half of ExpressVPN RSA keys.

ExpressVPNPIA
EncryptionAES-256AES-256
Protocols SupportedPPTP, L2TP/IPSec, SSTP and OpenVPN UDP / TCPPPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN and SOCKS5 Proxy Tunnel
RSA KeysRSA-4096RSA-2048
App SecurityKillswitchKillswitch

In terms of security, ExpressVPN has ticked all the boxes correctly. The service offers various tunneling protocols such as PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, SSTP and industry standard OpenVPN that uses 256-bit military grade encryption by default. Similarly, you can use its network lock (kill switch) while using its impressive Windows app.

ExpressVPN Settings

On the other hand, PIA also provides OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP and SOCKS5 proxy tunnel. Like ExpressVPN, the VPN delivers kill switch features that helps you remain anonymous even if the app suddenly stops working. Besides, the service applies 256-bit and RSA-2048 bit keys for encryption.

PIA-User-Interface

 

Features & Compatibility

Both VPNs are compatible with common devices but ExpressVPN goes the extra mile with additional devices. Furthermore, the service has a network lock (kill switch) feature in its armory. Its excellent compatibility feature allows you install the service on numerous platforms, routers, browsers, gaming consoles and other devices. Furthermore, you can secure your 5 multiple devices with a single ExpressVPN account.

If I compare ExpressVPN with Private Internet Access (PIA), the latter offers a comprehensive list of privacy features like internet kill switch, ad and malware blocker, apps for various operating systems and 10 simultaneous connections.  

ExpressVPNPIA
KillswitchYesYes
Split TunnelingYes (desktop only)No
Simultaneous Connections510
Extra FeaturesMediaStreamer, ObfuscationAd and malware blocker, multiple VPN Gateways, Obfuscation
Browser ExtensionsChrome, Firefox, and SafariChrome and Firefox
OS SupportWindows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, routersWindows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS

However, ExpressVPN has clearly an edge over PIA as it is compatible with numerous consoles and streaming devices.

 

Unblocking Strength

ExpressVPN offers excellent efficiency for Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime and Sky Go unblocking. When I tested ExpressVPN, I was able to access every region-blocked site or service right away.

ExpressVPNPIA
NetflixUS, UK, Canada, Germany, France, JapanNo
HuluUS, JapanUS, Japan
BBC iPlayerYesYes
Amazon Prime VideoYesNo
Sky GoYesYes
CBSYesYes

However, this was not the case with PIA as it is one such VPN that doesn’t work consistently with Netflix anymore. But, it helps you unblock other services such as Hulu, Sky Go and CBS. Therefore, when we talk about streaming, no other VPN comes close to ExpressVPN.  

 

Availability in China

ExpressVPN is one of the fewest VPNs that work in China but PIA is a hit and miss affair in the country. If you want to use PIA in China, you will have to setup the service manually on your devices. Moreover, the service may gets blocked at times. Luckily, ExpressVPN does not need manual configuration and works most of the time. Therefore, the BVI based VPN service turns out to be a better option than a US based service.

 

Customer Service

ExpressVPN provides excellent customer support through 24/7 live chat, setup guides/tutorials and email. On the other side, PIA has all the desired support features except real-time support.

ExpressVPNPIA
Live ChatYesNo
Email SupportYesYes
Tutorials/Setup GuidesYesYes

ExpressVPN offers quality live chat support which is available 24/7. In addition, the provider has setup tutorials and other technical guides on the official website to help answer your queries and resolve complaints.

PIA, unfortunately, still lacks live chat support. That is massively disappointing considering how big a brand Private Internet Access is and the fact that live chat has pretty much become a norm in the VPN industry. They do offer helpful instructional material and support through emails, but that’s no match for the convenience and utility of a live chat.

 

App Usability and Interface

ExpressVPN has better app and interface usability when establishing connection with different VPN servers. The service offers a light and highly responsive VPN client to its users. It takes only a few seconds to connect to any VPN server of your choice through the app.

ExpressVPNPIA
One click installation setupWindows, MacOS, iOS, Android, LinuxWindows, Mac OS, Android & iOS
Configurable settingsYesYes
Overall usabilityEasyEasy
Browser ExtensionsYesYes

Disconnections rarely ever happen if at all. As such, it is arguably the best providers as far as reliability of VPN connections is considered. The home screen delivers desirable option such as Smart Location, Recent Location, Select Location and the main Connect button.

ExpressVPN-iOS-interfaces

Private Internet Access also has a highly reliable VPN client that works efficiently in most situations. However, we have experienced issues making connections with servers at times, probably due to server overcrowding during peak times.

Other than that, it works smoothly and does not prove too much of an annoyance.

PIA-Settings-App-Interface

 

Torrenting / P2P File-sharing

ExpressVPN is way better than PIA in terms of torrenting support, courtesy of its jurisdictional advantage. In many instances, Private Internet Access and ExpressVPN are evenly matched. Torrenting is one of those areas which should ideally be performed with a high degree of privacy.

Both services offer support for torrent clients and websites. However, PIA discourages its users from using it to download torrents from the internet, as it is a DMCA compliant service.

Therefore, if you want to be careful, you’d do a lot better trusting ExpressVPN which is easily one of the best for the job, as the VPN is located in a country beyond the jurisdiction of DMCA.

 

Final Verdict: ExpressVPN is the Winner

ExpressVPN is the winner against PIA courtesy of better speed, server distribution, logging policy, and customer support, in this comparison. To read more about it, check out our detailed review of ExpressVPN.

However, PIA is itself a very competent VPN service that has more than 1 million paid subscribers. In addition, it offers excellent all-around services for users with impressive features like 10 simultaneous connections. In fact, if you’re tight on budget, it might even be a better idea to go with PIA rather than the expensive ExpressVPN because of the massive price difference.

Just know that we’re talking about two well-recognized brands and you can’ go wrong with either one of them.

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