ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access are two of the most common names that you will hear when looking for a VPN service to sign up for. Which of these two is the better option? Keep reading to find out in this ExpressVPN vs. PIA comparison!
ExpressVPN vs. PIA: Features
ExpressVPN and PIA (Private Internet Access) carry similar feature sets. Some of the things that you can find with both of them are:
- DNS leaks protection
- P2P support
- AES-256 encryption
- Kill switch
- Multi-platform support
Despite these similar feature sets, the two providers differ in how they implement certain features. For instance, ExpressVPN Offers greater support for router installations and can even be used with the Xbox game console.
ExpressVPN’s unique features
Going past the basic features in our ExpressVPN vs. PIA comparison, we look into their unique features. One feature worth mentioning for ExpressVPN is its split tunneling function. With split tunneling, you can can decide which traffic goes through your VPN and which uses your regular Internet connection. This helps you better manage your Internet traffic, and provides added security where and when you need it.
- Regular split tunneling: All your connections are routed through your VPN except the ones you specify.
- Reverse split tunneling: You specify only the devices that would use the VPN, while everything else is directed through your regular internet connection.
You can quickly change between the two configurations and add exceptions from within the ExpressVPN client app.
Another great thing about ExpressVPN is that they have their own DNS for their network. This helps eliminate the security risks associated with using third-party DNS servers, like unencrypted traffic and information logging. It can also help improve your connection speed since your traffic doesn’t need to go to external DNS servers.
Private Internet Access’ features
While PIA doesn’t carry as many specialized features as ExpressVPN, it still has its own notable security features. One such feature is MACE, which blocks out ads and trackers. It works by blocking tracking requests sent by known advertising domains right from the moment you access sites where they have trackers.
- No browser extensions needed
- Faster and more memory efficient for your computer
- Regularly updated list of malicious domains
- Optimized for mobile devices
These advantages make MACE one of PIA’s popular features. The provider also claims that it even blocks their own ads, ensuring that you get an uninterrupted browsing experience.
PIA includes SOCKS5 proxies as part of its features. This type of proxy is well-known for their speed. They also require authentication before you can connect to them, making them more secure than regular proxies.
To ensure better security, PIA provides you with separate login details for their SOCKS5 servers. You can also create your own credentials anytime you want. The connection can be easily set up from the client for quick use.
ExpressVPN vs. PIA: Servers and reach
Private Internet Access and ExpressVPN have similarly sized networks, with around 3000 servers each. ExpressVPN has the larger coverage, providing servers in 94 countries. PIA are in 33 countries right now, but this does give you the advantage of greater server densities and more options for the popular areas they cover.
ExpressVPN also offers virtual server locations aside from the physical ones. These virtual servers let you connect to more remote locations while still maintaining the speed you get from a physical server.
Both providers allow torrenting traffic, but limit it to certain servers. These servers are indicated on their respective apps’ server selection screens, making it easy for you to set up your connections.
The two providers also have built-in kill switches to automatically disconnect your entire Internet connection on your machine if your connection to the VPN server drops. This protects you from possible IP address leaks that can occur when connecting to servers. This is very important to those who torrent. Each provider also offers other features for managing torrent traffic, like ExpressVPN’s split tunneling and PIA’s SOCKS5 proxies.
Private Internet Access officially states in their policy statements that it no longer supports the unblocking of geo-blocked content. While they did not single out specific services, this is seen as an official declaration that they are no longer able to unblock Netflix.
Despite that official restriction, you can still find some servers that are able to access the US Netflix servers. This will require some trial and error, as the functional servers are likely going to change as PIA continues to implement their new policies.
On the other hand, ExpressVPN is one of the few providers that is still able to access most of Netflix. One thing that you need to note about using the provider to unblock the popular streaming site is that you could still encounter some connection issues. These issues include the streaming site not displaying properly, or actual block messages.
Like PIA, you will need to try out different servers to find one which one works, the main difference is that since they have no official policy statement against Netflix unblocking, you are more likely to succeed at finding a working server.
ExpressVPN vs. PIA: Performance
In our ExpressVPN vs. PIA performance tests, the two providers came out almost evenly matched. Both were able to maintain more than 90% of our test connection’s regular speeds. In the case of Private Internet Access, we were even able to go around the 2MB cap put on our test connection, registering a speed of 6.56MB. Since they have the same performance numbers, we expect ExpressVPN is capable of delivering a similar level of performance.
The results were also similar when connecting to servers that were located further away. ExpressVPN maintained a consistent speed whether it was the US or UK server that we connected to. PIA also delivered a similar performance when we connected to one of its servers in France. We did notice some connection lag for both providers, but this is a fairly common issue with long-distance servers.
PIA does have the distinction of being considered by popular speed testing website Ookla as one of the fastest VPNs available. Their tests showed that the provider was able to retain 94.1% of the regular connection speed. This is in line with the the test results that we got, and is a good indicator of their reliability.
The two providers also have the same level of performance when it comes to torrenting applications. With PIA, we noticed that our download speed goes down by about 5%-10% of the VPN-less speeds. The drop is unnoticeable in most cases, but you might still want to pay attention to it when torrenting through an already-slow connection.
Both providers allow torrenting only through certain servers, which will limit your choices. Also note that the servers you get are not dedicated to P2P. This can result in less than optimal performance, which might slightly affect your download speeds.
ExpressVPN vs. PIA: Usability
One feature that the ExpressVPN and PIA apps have in common is a large Quick Connect button on their home screens. In the case of ExpressVPN, clicking the button will connect you to an AI-selected server based on geographic location and speed. This option is useful for beginners who are still learning how to use a VPN.
Both apps also allow you to manually select a preferred server manually. If you’re looking to access content in certain regions, or get on a certain server with your friends for online gaming, this is ideal.
The main difference in usability of the apps is that ExpressVPN has a speed test function built into it. It will show you the performance of the server if you connect to it. This isn’t a huge difference as PIA also has a Ping rate display function for their servers.
ExpressVPN vs PIA: Pricing
There is absolutely no question which provider offers better pricing here as the cheapest packages for both providers are:
- PIA: $2.91/month
- Express: $8.32/month
You simply can’t compare them on price. PIA is one of the cheapest in the entire industry, especially at their level of quality.
Other differences in their pricing plans and policies include:
- Length: ExpressVPN’s longest subscriptions are renewed yearly. PIA has the option of renewing every two years, so you can set it and forget it for two entire years. They both have options for monthly, six months, and yearly, so they stack up evenly there.
- Guarantees: ExpressVPN offer a 30-day money-back guarantee on their services. This is quite a bit longer than the 7-day policy offered by PIA. These guarantees are nice, but after reading this comparison, and our reviews of both providers, you should have a fair idea of how well they’re going to perform.
PIA has been one of the best-priced VPNs in the industry for years. They have built their app and service simply, without all of the flash of ExpressVPN. We know that choosing a good VPN comes down to more than just price, but the savings with PIA are hard to ignore.
ExpressVPN vs PIA: Which VPN is better?
At this time in our ExpressVPN vs PIA comparison, we would like to give a clear winner. That’s tough to do as at the time of this writing, ExpressVPN ranks #6 overall, while PIA ranks #5 overall.
If we were to pick one deciding factor between the two it would be pricing where PIA is simply much more affordable, and with longer pricing plans. Both providers are quality and a great choice for your VPN provider.
If you’re still not sure, see our reviews below for more options, or to explore either of these providers further.
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