ExpressVPN vs PIA (Private Internet Access): Which is Better?

ExpressVPN is one of the best VPNs in the industry. Because of that, it’s often compared with Private Internet Access (PIA), which is also a market leader. Both are excellent services that offer the best online security you can get. However, there’s a reason why ExpressVPN is considered to be better.

In this guide, we will assess the two services and look at all their quirks and features. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll know everything about them. So without further ado, let’s dive right into it!

Overall Winner: ExpressVPN

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Comparison

The first thing we’ll do is get an overview of what each VPN provides its customers. Under is a simple table comparing them:

  logo pia vpn
Private Internet Access
logo expressvpn
ExpressVPN
Logging Policy No Logging No Logging
Jurisdiction United States (Five-Eyes Member The British Virgin Islands
Encryption AES-256
AES-128
SHA-256 Hash Authentication
4096-bit RSA Key Exchange
AES-256
SHA-212 Hash Authentication
4096-bit RSA Key Exchange
Protocols OpenVPN UDP
OpenVPN TCP
IPSec/L2TP
WireGuard
OpenVPN UDP
OpenVPN TCP
IPSec/IKEv2
IPSec/L2TP
Lightway Protocol (Beta)
Ad and malware blockers Yes No
Kill switch Yes Yes (Except iOS)
Leak Tests No Leaks Found No Leaks Found
Speed Tests Slow Fast
Torrenting & P2P Yes (On All Servers) Yes (On All Servers)
Streaming Netflix
Amazon Prime
Hulu
Firestick
Kodi
Netflix
Amazon Prime
Hulu
BBC iPlayer
Firestick
Roku (Via Router)
Kodi
Apple TV (Via DNS or Router)
Android TV
Gaming Windows
Android
iOS
Xbox One (Via Router)
PS4 (Via Router)
Nintendo Switch (Via Router)
Windows
Android
iOS
Xbox One (Via DNS or Router)
PS4 (Via DNS or Router)
Nintendo Switch (Via DNS or Router)
Compatibility Windows
macOS
Linux
Android
iOS
Chrome
Firefox
Opera
Tor
Selected Routers
Windows
macOS
Android
iOS
Linux
Chromebook
Chrome
Firefox
Tor
Selected Routers
Simultaneous Connections 10 5
Servers 3300+ 3000+
China Sometimes (1 Out of 3 Servers Worked) Yes
Split Tunneling Yes Yes
Additional Features PIA MACE No Additional Features
Prices

$9.95/Month
$3.33/Month (1-Year)
$2.69/Month (2-Years)

Special Offer: 73% off and 2 months free for a 2-year subscription

$12.95/Month
$9.99/Month (6 Months)
$8.32/Month (1-Year)

Special Offer: 50% off for a 1-year subscription

Our Rating 4.3 4.8
Website www.privateinternetaccess.com www.expressvpn.com

There are a lot of things that differentiate one from the other. It’s a must to go into detail to get a full understanding of each VPN. I’ll divide things by the category and assign one winner for each round.

Overall Winner: ExpressVPN

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Privacy & Security

The first thing we’ll do is see what security measures ExpressVPN and PIA use. If anything, this category is the most important one. After all, a service that doesn’t provide its users with privacy and safety is useless.

One can say that Private Internet Access is greatly disadvantaged. It’s because it’s based in the United States. Consequently, it has to follow restrictive privacy and copyright laws. The VPN must comply with the legal system or else risk being shut down.

Fortunately, the record of PIA hasn’t been tarnished. Despite its handicap, it has been able to protect its users. On two occasions, authorities have demanded information from it without success. Additionally, it regularly subjects itself to independent audits to prove that it’s trustworthy.

With all that being said, let’s now take a closer look at each security feature the two VPNs have.

Encryption Comparison

ExpressVPN and PIA offer users the best encryption on the market. Both utilize an AES-256 military-grade cipher with a 4096 handshake. What sets them apart is that PIA utilizes SHA-256 hash authentication while ExpressVPN makes use of SHA-212.

VPN Protocols

PIA and ExpressVPN utilize every mainstream encryption used today. However, it’s a must to note that PIA doesn’t support IKEv2 except on its iOS app.

In comparison, ExpressVPN lacks support for WireGuard, which is the newest and most robust encryption available. The service makes up for this by having support for Lightway Protocol.

Leak Protection

As mentioned, PIA subjects itself to independent audits. Meanwhile, it’s said that ExpressVPN conducts its own. Both of them offer DNS and IP address leak protection along with an automatic kill switch.

While all that sounds great on paper, I wanted to see if both VPNs could really protect me. As such, I conducted tests using IPLeak.net.

Before going forward, take a look at the results after I ran a test without using any VPN:

ip leak test no vpn
IP Leak Test – No VPN

Here’s the result after I paired to PIA’s server in Singapore:

ip leak test pia singapore
IP Leak Test – PIA Singapore

Now look at the outcome after I connected to ExpressVPN’s server in Hong Kong:

ip leak expressvpn hong kong
IP Leak Test – ExpressVPN Hong Kong

As predicted, neither VPN failed my tests. The two hid my IP address without problems, proving their claims. With both, I can rest assured that troublemakers won’t be able to find out my legitimate IP address and do me harm.

Server Security

What’s great about ExpressVPN is that it runs all its servers in RAM-disk mode. Hence, logs can’t be stored on them. PIA doesn’t run their servers in RAM-disk mode but has stated their plans to. Instead, it uses WireGuard, which is arguably the best encryption.

In Conclusion

I choose ExpressVPN because it runs all its servers in RAM-disk mode. Furthermore, it’s based in the British Virgin Islands, which puts it outside the Five Eyes jurisdiction. That means the VPN doesn’t have to follow hindering copyright and privacy laws.

Winner: ExpressVPN

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Speed Test

People have praised ExpressVPN for its quickness. It’s known as one of the fastest services available, making it ideal for lots of tasks. The same can’t be said for PIA, which isn’t reputed to be a fast VPN.

I wanted to see what each service was capable of, so I ran some tests. Before we examine the results, check out my base connection:

speed test no vpn
Speed Test – No VPN

This is how PIA’s Singapore server affected it:

speed test pia singapore
Speed Test – PIA Singapore

Here’s the outcome after moving to ExpressVPN’s server in Hong Kong:

speed test expressvpn hong kong
Speed Test – ExpressVPN Hong Kong

As you can see, the difference between the two is evident. PIA brought my connection down to an almost unusable state. In comparison, ExpressVPN did wonderfully in maintaining my internet speed. The ping even got better, which somewhat surprised me.

Winner: ExpressVPN

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Torrenting & P2P

I was curious to see if PIA and ExpressVPN can protect me from torrenting leaks. The only way to find out was to run a test. Let’s first look at my test results without any service running:

torrenting no vpn
Torrenting Leak Test – No VPN

This is what happened after I connected to Private Internet Access’ server in Singapore:

torrenting pia singapore
Torrenting Leak Test – PIA Singapore

And these are the results after transferring to ExpressVPN’s Hong Kong server:

torrenting expressvpn hong kong
Torrenting Leak Test – ExpressVPN Hong Kong

None of the services failed to mask my IP address. For that reason, I can trust them completely for all my torrenting needs.

Deciding on a winner here was tricky as both VPNs were able to maintain my privacy. But, my mind eventually settled on ExpressVPN as it’s the quicker one of the two. With it, I’ll be able to finish torrenting sessions in no time.

Winner: ExpressVPN

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Streaming

Streaming is a top priority for many VPN users. Hence, this category is a very important one. I have heard nothing but praise in regard to ExpressVPN’s streaming capabilities. The VPN is said to be capable of bypassing the geoblocks of almost any service. On top of that, it does so in full resolution with zero buffering.

In contrast, many have claimed that Private Internet Access is no good for streaming. The VPN almost always fails to work around geoblocks. Additionally, its limited speed means that streaming in HD without buffering is next to impossible.

Netflix

No other streaming platform comes close to Netflix in popularity. Due to that, I had to see if both VPNs could access its libraries. The first service that I tested was Private Internet Access and its New York Server. My title of choice was Spotlight:

netflix us pia
Netflix US – PIA

The next step was to see what ExpressVPN’s US server could do:

netflix us expressvpn
Netflix US – ExpressVPN

Both of the services did well in my tests. As expected, the performance of PIA was bad since it failed to stream in top quality. To its credit, the VPN was still able to load the movie without any buffering.

ExpressVPN did wonderfully because I experienced no issues with quality. Besides that, the service was able to stream without buffering. It’s for these reasons that I have to declare it as the winner of this category.

Winner: ExpressVPN

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Gaming

Aside from streaming, a lot of VPN users prioritize gaming. Using the right service, you’ll be protected during every session. Moreover, it’ll be possible to access distant gaming servers and play with more people.

My experience with Private Internet Access wasn’t good. I played several matches on Mobile Legends and Call of Duty while connected to its Singapore server. All of which suffered from lagging that rendered the game nearly unplayable.

I had a better time after switching to ExpressVPN’s Hong Kong server. The VPN’s speed gave me a considerable advantage. Lag was still present but only sporadically, and it wasn’t game-breaking. Thanks to that, I was able to win the majority of my matches.

Winner: ExpressVPN

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Compatibility

Like me, you’re probably a person that uses many devices with different operating systems. It would be a shame if the VPN you use isn’t compatible with them all. Fortunately, both PIA and ExpressVPN work on all kinds of gadgets.

Check out the table below to see what each service has compatibility for:

  ExpressVPN Private Internet Access
Windows Yes Yes
macOS Yes Yes
Linux Yes Yes
Chromebook Yes No
Android Yes Yes
iOS Yes Yes
Chrome Yes Yes
Firefox Yes Yes
Tor Yes (Not on Mobile) Yes
Opera No Yes
Selected Routers Yes Yes

PIA has apps for every common platform except Chromebook. Meanwhile, ExpressVPN does not have an Opera browser extension. The VPN makes up for this by being compatible with most smart TV systems. Also, it has a native app for Kindle Fire.

The victor in this round of ExpressVPN vs PIA is ExpressVPN because of its wider compatibility with smart TVs. Furthermore, it also boasts an app for Kindle Fire, while Private Internet Access does not.

Winner: ExpressVPN

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Simultaneous Connections

Users can pair a maximum of 5 devices simultaneously under one account with ExpressVPN. In the VPN industry, this perk is offered by many other services. If anything, it’s not special, especially when you consider the cost of a subscription.

In contrast, PIA stands out by letting you concurrently use 10 devices with a single account. Only a few other competitors allow for so many simultaneous connections. Due to that, it’s safe to say that the service offers your tremendous value for your money. Thus, PIA is the winner in this Private Internet Access vs ExpressVPN round.

Winner: Private Internet Access

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Servers

Having more servers makes it easier for a VPN to hide your IP address. Because of that, a service with a larger network is a better one. That said, both ExpressVPN and PIA have a large server network that’s worthy of praise. Nonetheless, only one can win in this category.

ExpressVPN has over 3000 RAM-disk mode servers globally. Each can be tapped into with one click. Besides that, all of them are P2P-enabled, meaning you won’t have to switch to a P2P-friendly server before torrenting.

The winning service is PIA, which has 3300+ servers across the world. All of them are P2P-enabled like those of its competitor. However, none are run in RAM-disk mode as PIA has yet to upgrade its network. Be that as it may, it’s only a matter of time before that happens since the VPN has announced a full transition soon.

Winner: Private Internet Access

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China

The Great Firewall of China is a system of censorship measures put in place by the Chinese government. Only the best VPNs can successfully get around it with consistency. Hence, a service’s ability to is a great measure of how good it is.

Reports have claimed that PIA isn’t good for use in China. Although it can sometimes bypass the Great Firewall, it usually fails. This puts it at a disadvantage versus ExpressVPN, which is claimed to be the go-to VPN in China.

The secret to ExpressVPN’s success in China is a feature called obfuscation. Using it, the VPN disguises its server code and makes unusual web traffic undetectable.

My winner in this round of ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access is ExpressVPN. No other service on the market bypasses the Great Firewall as reliably as it does. Even when compared to other VPNs like NordVPN or Surfshark, it proves to be superior.

Winner: ExpressVPN

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Interface & Usability

PIA’s apps are simple to use, which is great. Upon opening it, you’ll instantly notice a large button. Pressing it connects you to the nearest major server or the last one you used. Under that is a quick connect option where you may pick between five of the most popular servers.

interface pia
PIA Interface

On the top is a three-dot icon that leads you to the settings. Opening it brings you to another tab where you may adjust the VPN. A bonus feature that I like is the option to choose a dark or light theme for the VPN.

ExpressVPN also has a straightforward app that’s easy to use. A connect button is the first thing that you’ll notice. Beneath are smart location and recent location tabs. One pairs you to the closest recommended server while the other to the one you used previously.

interface expressvpn
ExpressVPN Interface

Access to the settings is on the top left corner. Click on the three-line icon, and it’ll open up to show you VPN locations, a speed test, options, and a help & support tab.

Each service has very similar minimalistic apps that were a joy to use. However, my preference lies with ExpressVPN because PIA’s Windows app automatically minimizes into the system tray upon opening another program. I didn’t like this because I had to keep re-opening it, which was kind of annoying.

Winner: ExpressVPN

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Additional Features

One nice extra feature that PIA has is an ad blocker called PIA MACE. Although it isn’t the best, it adds a new degree of protection. People like me who like downloading random torrents are sure to find it especially useful. After all, the last thing one wants is for their system to get infected by a virus.

Unfortunately, there’s no built-in ad blocker for ExpressVPN. Instead, it has split-tunneling (only available on PIA’s desktop apps), which is a feature that lets you reveal your legitimate IP address to selected websites and apps. The feature comes in handy when you’re talking to your boss or dealing with a service that requires your real location.

Since both VPNs have great additional features, there’ll be no winner in this category. The score in our PIA vs ExpressVPN will have to even out in another round.

Winner: Tie

Customer Support

I didn’t know that I had to log into ExpressVPN’s website to download their apps, so I had a chat with customer service. The chat representative that attended to me was very quick. She gave me a detailed answer to my problem.

PIA also has chat support. Sadly, it can only be accessed by paying customers. As such, those looking to enquire about the service are out of luck. That said, my experience with PIA’s chat support service has also been good.

To see what each VPN offers when it comes to customer support, refer to the table under:

  Private Internet Access ExpressVPN
Live Chat Yes Yes
Email Support Yes Yes
Phone Support No No
Ticket Support Yes Yes
Video Tutorials No Yes
Online Knowledge Base Yes Yes
Average Response Time 39 Minutes 45 Minutes

The winner here is ExpressVPN because it has a wider online knowledge base. Additionally, the VPN has many video guides available to help you out. PIA has got no such thing and relies on write-ups with screenshots.

Winner: ExpressVPN

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Prices

To see what VPN is more affordable, check out the table below:

  ExpressVPN Private Internet Access
Subscription Lengths 1 Month ($12.95/Month) 1 Month ($9.95/Month)
  6 Months ($9.99/Month) 1 Year ($3.33/Month)
  15 Months ($8.32/Month) 2 Years ($2.69/Month)
Highest Price Per Month $12.95 $9.95
Lowest Price Per Month $8.32 $2.69
One Year Price $99.95 (12 Months +3) $39.96
Money-Back Guarantee 30 Days 30 Days
Special Offer 3 months free with a 1-year subscription 73% discount for a 2-year plan + 2 months free

As seen above, it’s clear that PIA is the cheaper service. Its pricing is one of the best in the industry. The VPN is perfect for people that want a good enough service without paying a lot.

If you wish to try both services out without risks, they have a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Winner: Private Internet Access

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Verdict

Is ExpressVPN Better Than PIA?

ExpressVPN is better than PIA in many ways. It doesn’t fall under Five Eyes jurisdiction, making it more secure. The service is also way faster, giving it an advantage for gaming, streaming, and torrenting. Moreover, it’s got better compatibility and customer support. Lastly, it bypasses the Great Firewall of China with ease.

I’m not saying that PIA is a bad VPN. It’s great as it has a wonderful set of features that come at a great price. Sadly, it’s simply outdone by its competitor that seems to check all the right boxes.

Overall Winner: ExpressVPN

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About the author 

Kris Soliongco

Kris has two passions in life: writing and tech. He’s been building computers since he was eight years old and is very knowledgeable about online security. The first time he was exposed to VPNs was in 2016. Since then, he’s used a plethora of services and has gained much experience.