ExpressVPN vs PIA [Test Results 2019]

ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access (PIA) are two of the most popular VPNs, particularly among BitTorrent users. 

Both providers not only do an excellent job of hiding your torrent IP address and keeping your connection anonymous but also feature some notable differences. 

While PIA’s connection speeds are relatively good, ExpressVPN’s speeds are to die for. Thankfully, PIA boasts of more device connections for low prices. Even so, ExpressVPN offers better access to geo-blocked sites. 

What follows is an in-depth comparison of the two VPNs to provide you with a clearer picture of these service providers. But first, how to choose a VPN that suits your needs? 

How to Choose a VPN 

There are a lot of factors that go into deciding on a VPN. And since different VPNs feature dissimilar specs, you need to define what matters to you the most clearly. 

Some VPNs prioritize high speeds over advanced security features. Others may offer excellent security but compromise on user-friendliness. The mentioned are some of the traits evident between ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access VPN. 

Note that PIA’s connection speeds are pretty good, but ExpressVPN takes the crown for the fastest speeds. 

In this comparison, we’ll categorically list the details, the crucial factors to consider when buying a VPN. 

Similarly, we’ll also review how the two providers – ExpressVPN and PIA – perform under each category. Hopefully, by the end of the review, you’ll be in a better position to make an informed purchase decision. 

Connection Speed 

Few things are as annoying as a slow internet connection. Regrettably, when using a VPN, your internet connection speed is bound to decrease. As such, a good VPN is one that won’t eat way too much into your ISP’s speeds. 

When testing the speed difference between ExpressVPN and PIA, we had first to establish a baseline speed for our connection. For this, we used the Ookla speed testing service to know our initial internet connection speed. 

To be empirical and accurate, we ran the speed test three times and averaged the results. The average download speed without a VPN was 38.46 Mbps. 

Now, using each VPN, we tested connection speeds in two different locations – locally (the US) and the UK. The tests were run 3 times a day for 2 days, and the results averaged. 

Local Location Speed (US)

The average connection speeds of ExpressVPN in the U.S stood at 35.77 Mbps. A negligible 7% loss from the unprotected connection speed. With PIA, we registered a whopping 20% speed loss, since it averaged 30.77 Mbps. 

Local Connection Speed Winner: ExpressVPN

International Connection Speed (US to the U.K.)

Due to high latency, international connection speeds reduce significantly. When routed through their servers in the UK, both VPNs registered a drop in their connection speed. 

However, PIA showed the most significant reduction by averaging a speed of 24.27 Mbps. ExpressVPN came in at 28.58 Mbps. 

International Connection Speed Winner: ExpressVPN

Pricing 

Although it’s recommended to use a paid VPN service, you shouldn’t have to break the bank for one. Notwithstanding, it’s not all about the price, value matters. A lot. 

ExpressVPN is undoubtedly the most expensive option of the two, with a monthly subscription of $12.95 per month. All the same, it gets cheaper if you commit to a long-term payment plan. 

For instance, the provider’s 6-month plan is billed $9.95/month. It gets even cheaper with ExpressVPN’s annual tarrif, which costs $6.67per month billed first 15 months, and annually after that. Moreover, the VPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for you to try out the service. 

If you are on a tight budget, however, PIA can be your saving grace. The provider charges $6.95 for monthly subscriptions and bills $5.99 per month for the 6-months plan. With PIA’s yearly subscription, you save up to 52%, since you pay $39.95 per year ($3.33/month). 

Although PIA’s7-days money-back guarantee isn’t as long as ExpressVPN’s, it is undeniably more affordable. 

Pricing Winner: Private Internet Access 

Privacy 

A VPN whose privacy abilities are wanting is, for sure, a deal-breaker for most users. In reality, the need for a private connection is one of the primary reasons why most people use a VPN in the first place. 

ExpressVPN is located in the British Virgin Islands, where VPN providers aren’t required to retain user data. For this reason, the provider doesn’t save any user logs. To further enhance your privacy, ExpressVPN lets you pay via Bitcoin.

Private Internet Access is based in the US, where there are stringent mass surveillance laws, which require companies to collect users’ data. 

The US is also part of the Five Eyes Surveillance, an alliance that encourages member-states to monitor its citizens. 

Despite being located in a privacy-unfriendly jurisdiction, PIA keeps no logs. So if the government wants your data, PIA will offer them none; because they also don’t have it.

The VPN also accepts crypto payments, including Bitcoin and Ethereum. Though considering the anti-privacy laws in the US, one can’t help but trust ExpressVPN more, as far as privacy is concerned.  

Privacy Winner: ExpressVPN 

Features 

Most users fancy the idea of being protected by a VPN with lots of handy features. This mainly due to the general knowledge that feature-rich VPNs often provide better capabilities. 

As much as this may seem accurate, too many features can get in the way of a service’s user-friendliness. Ideally, a good VPN should keep features to a standard, without missing the essential ones.

Both ExpressVPN and PIA play it simple with the features, which explains their ease of use. But they do have unique features that give each a competitive edge than the other. 

For instance, ExpressVPN boasts split tunneling functionality, while PIA makes up for lacking by including an AD-blocker.  

For a fair comparison, we covered the essential features that any reliable VPN should have. This stems from the fact that not all unique features hold the same weight. For example, a win in AD-blocking abilities doesn’t hold similar value as a win in privacy protection.  

Here is a comparison of key features that are common in both VPNs:

Encryption  

A secure connection is one of the top priorities for any VPN, and these two are no exception. 

ExpressVPN uses OperaVPN as the default protocol, so you can switch between supported protocols. Such protocols include PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, UDP, TCP, and SSTP.  

The VPN uses military-grade AES-256 bit encryption, which currently is the strongest block ciphers. It also includes an extra layer of RSA-4096 bit encryption to enhance secure connections further. 

On testing for DNS, WebRTC, and IP leaks, using third-party tools, ExpressVPN passed all metrics. 

Similarly, PIA uses OperaVPN, along with with PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, and UDP protocols. It also offers high-level AES-256 encryption, with DNS and IPv6 leak protection in all its protocols. 

Encryption Winner: Tie 

Simultaneous Connections 

If you want a VPN for family use or your small business, then you might choose one that allows multiple simultaneous connections. This way everyone’s connection will be protected using a single VPN account. By not subscribing to multiple accounts, you stand to save a few bucks. 

Ideally, the more devices you can connect, the better. A single ExpressVPN account allows you to connect up to 5 devices at the same time, which is an increase from the previous 3 simultaneous connections. 

Despite the provider’s effort in increasing the number of connections, the VPN doesn’t match its competitor. 

With the ability to support up to 10 connections at the same time, PIA openly beats ExpressVPN by far. Note that sometime back PIA supported only 5 simultaneous connections. 

On the bright side, using ExpressVPN with a router, you can connect additional devices simultaneously. Even still, Private Internet Access offers the same. 

Simultaneous Connection Winner: Private Internet Access

Torrent Support 

Any VPN worth its salt should support P2P file sharing. And yes, both PIA and ExpressVPN are good options for sharing P2P files. 

ExpressVPN doesn’t restrict P2P/torrent downloads to any specific servers. It means you can upload and download content (music and movies) anonymously using any of its servers in any location. 

In fact, the VPN furnishes its users with an instructional manual on how to use the service with the P2P app, uTorrent. 

More so, ExpressVPN is equipped with a ‘kill switch’ feature, which keepings your IP address under wraps if your connection is interrupted. Coupling this ability with the VPN’s no-logs policy and high encryption standards, its a safe option for torrenting enthusiasts. 

Private Internet Access also supports torrenting from any location; it also features an unlimited bandwidth. All the better, PIA comes with port forwarding abilities, enabling incoming connections to go through a NAT firewall, and often, improving P2P download speeds.

Even though both VPNs support torrenting, ExpressVPN is the best option since it boasts better connection speeds. The higher the connection speed, the faster you can download torrent files. 

Torrent Support Winner: ExpressVPN 

Global Server Coverage 

Ordinarily, the higher the number of servers a VPN has, the faster the connection speeds. However, the servers should be evenly distributed in all the locations to improve the speeds further. Besides, a server-rich VPN unblocks geo-restricted content more efficiently.

With over 3,000 servers in 94 countries, ExpressVPN offers excellent global server coverage, giving you plenty of options to access geographically blocked content. Moreover, with such a high number of servers, the connection speeds are undoubtedly impressive. 

Speaking of servers, PIA beats ExpressVPN, since it has over 3,345 servers; most of which are in the US. Worse off, the servers are spread across only 30 countries.

For most users, mostly international clients, PIA may not meet their content-unblocking needs. At least not with ExpressVPN in the vicinity. Even US users might be challenged using PIA to unblock content restricted to specific states. 

Global Server Coverage Winner: ExpressVPN

Multi-Platform Support 

In case you’ve got several devices to access the internet, then you know different gadgets feature different operating systems. Putting this in perspective, you may be using an iPhone, but you still have a Windows computer or an Android tablet in your household. For this reason, you may want a VPN that is compatible with all these devices. 

ExpressVPN works perfectly on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Kindle Fire, Blackberry, and Amazon TV platforms. Plus, its got browser extensions for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox browsers. Into the bargain, the VPN provides setup instructions for popular routers on its website. 

Private Internet Access only supports Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux. And provide browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. Similarly, PIA works on selected routers. 

Multi-platform Support Winner: ExpressVPN

Customer Support 

If you’ve ever needed help using a particular product, then you already know a steadfast customer support comes in handy. Besides, a responsive customer support gives you peace of mind, knowing that your VPN connection can be restored as fast, in case of any hitches. 

ExpressVPN is well known for its friendly and responsive customer support. They provide a 24/7 live chat support that is directly accessible through the VPN’s website.

Adding to their customers’ service, they feature a fast-response trouble ticket submission, ensuring nothing goes unresolved. As if that’s not enough, their troubleshooting guides on their site can prove helpful. 

Unfortunately, PIA doesn’t offer live chat support. Moreover, their e-mail support response isn’t the fastest you could find. On the bright side, PIA has a working trouble ticket submission and a decent searchable knowledge base. 

Customer Support Winner: ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN vs. Private Internet Access: Final Verdict

Although PIA provides similar functionality as ExpressVPN, we found it slightly lacking in some crucial areas. These include privacy, unblocking capabilities, server coverage, and multi-platform support.  

While PIA shows excellent speeds, ExpressVPN has an edge. However, for the budget-conscious users, PIA is your ideal option, especially if you commit to the more extended plans. 

What’s more exciting, both VPNs offer top-rated security features, meaning you can’t be wrong choosing one over the other. PIA’s unique features such as MACE, which help improve privacy by blocking ads and malware.

While ExpressVPN clearly won this battle, whichever of the two you choose, be sure of a secure and private connection—which is one of the primary functions of any VPN.