So, you’ve done your research and narrowed all the VPNs down to just two.
We understand that with the number of VPNs and reviews out there, even getting to this stage can be tough! So how are you ever going to choose just one?
Well, this review will go into in-depth detail about ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access in the hope that it will help you take the final steps in whittling your choice down to just one!
Both VPNs offer a great service and you will no-doubt end up with a top VPN whichever one you end up choosing. However, there are subtle differences between the two that could lead you to favor one over the other.
ExpressVPN Top Features
- Servers in 94 countries
- Protocols: OpenVPN, L2TP-IPsec, SSTP, PPTP
- Up to 3 simultaneous connections
- 256-bit encryption
- Built-in speed test
- Apps for all operating systems
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Unlimited speed
PIA Top Features
- Servers in 25 countries
- Protocols: OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPSec
- Up to 5 simultaneous connections
- 256-bit encryption
- Ad, tracker, malware blocker
- SOCKS5 Proxy
- Can use with P2P
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Unlimited speed
Express VPN vs PIA: Features In Common
As we’re sure you noticed from the above lists of features, both VPNs have a lot in common. This is great news as some VPN features are very necessary if you want the best possible service, the highest level of security, and the most anonymity.
Security Protocols And Encryption
Both ExpressVPN and PIA have strong security protocol options and high encryption. In terms of VPN protocols, the most important thing is that they both give you the option to use OpenVPN. This open source VPN Protocol is generally considered to be both the fastest and the most secure of all the VPN protocols. As such, wherever possible you should use this protocol.
PPTP is also offered by both VPNs but realistically you should never connect using PPTP as it isn’t considered to be as secure as OpenVPN or even L2TP/IPSec.
In terms of encryption, both VPNs offer AES 256-bit encryption. This is very secure and pretty much as good as you are going to get on a VPN. Before you get started, however, you should notice that PIA defaults to the slightly less secure AES 128-bit encryption (less encryption can be faster). This can easily be changed in the settings.
If anonymity is a priority, ensuring your VPN doesn’t keep logs should be at the top of your list of required features. Basically, there are two types of logs: connection logs and usage logs.
Usage logs are the most worrying. If a VPN keeps usage logs it will be keeping information of the sites you visit, things you download, and software that you use. On the other hand, connection logs can include details like when you used the VPN, how long for, and how much data you have received and sent, etc.
Luckily, neither PIA or ExpressVPN keep usage logs. In the case of PIA, their no logging claim has been verified after they were unable to hand over any logs for a court case despite an FBI request.
While they don’t keep usage logs, ExpressVPN do keep some connection logs such as the dates you use their service, your choice of server location, and the total amount of data transferred per day. However, they claim that this is simply so that they can provide the best user experience possible.
A kill switch is a super-useful feature that ensures you only connect to the internet while connected to your VPN. Sometimes, when using a VPN the connection to the server can cut out and you will connect straight to the website you are trying to reach. This can cause problems from both a security and privacy perspective.
However, a kill switch ensures that should the connection to the VPN falter you will not connect, unprotected, to the website.
DNS Leak Protection
DNS leaks can be problematic as any leaked DNS queries can reveal your true IP address. Both these VPNs have DNS leak protection which protects you from this.
When you connect to the internet your browser sends a request to a DNS server. This is usually run by your ISP and as such means that your ISP can see the sites you access. When you use a VPN, these requests are first through your VPN to an anonymous DNS server.
The problem is that sometimes your browser will bypass the VPN and send the request straight to your ISPs DNS server. If this happens your anonymity will be serious reduced. However, if your VPN has DNS leak protection, as both these VPNs do, the chances of this happening will be greatly reduced.
Multi-Device Simultaneous Connections
Both ExpressVPN and PIA allow simultaneous VPN connections on different devices. This could give you the option to either allow other family members to use the VPN or for you to use the VPN on your computer and phone at the same time.
PIA has a slight advantage here as they allow up to five devices to connect simultaneously, compared to ExpressVPN’s three.
Differences Between ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access
Of course, despite sharing a lot of features, neither service is quite the same. When deciding which VPN you want to sign up to, this section will likely be most important.
PIA-Only Features That We Liked
Normally when you connect to the internet, your traffic is protected from malicious incoming connections by your router’s firewall. However, when you use a VPN you lose the benefit of this firewall because the VPN tunnels straight past the router.
However, by including a NAT firewall, your VPN connection is still firewalled off from the rest of the internet. This can also be useful on mobile devices that connect straight to the internet via data.
ExpressVPN don’t offer a NAT Firewall as they claim it is unnecessary. This is because they say that by assigning multiple users to a single IP address they can provide the same benefits associated with a firewall.
A SOCKS5 proxy is similar to a VPN in that you connect to a server before connecting to your final destination (therefore, hiding your IP address). However, your traffic isn’t encrypted as well as with a VPN (if at all).
The major upside to this is that despite being less secure than a VPN, the lack of encryption means your connection will likely be much faster. SOCKS5 does not support authentication with many web browsers although it is often used for downloading torrents.
It is also possible to use a SOCKS5 proxy at the same time as a VPN for added security and privacy.
Intuitive Server Selection
Choosing a server is super easy with PIA. The app is pretty basic so all you have to do is select the country you want to connect to from the list and you are good to go.
ExpressVPN-Only Features That We Liked
Server Choice Galore
One of the undoubted advantages of ExpressVPN is the number of servers available. ExpressVPN have servers in 145+ locations in 94 countries. Should unblocking content from a range of countries be what you need, ExpressVPN almost certainly has you covered.
Speed Test Function
ExpressVPN’s speed test is a really useful feature that allows you to test the speed of the server you want to connect to. This can help you choose the most suitable server and save a lot of time in testing out different servers.
The speed test covers the speed index, latency, and download speed of each server.
Both ExpressVPN and PIA have plenty of servers available for you to choose from. Having said that, ExpressVPN does have significantly more. Let’s take a look at what they are and why this is important.
The most obvious reason that server location is important is that if you want to unblock geo-restricted content, you will need a server in the region that allows access to the content that you want to unblock. Therefore, the more server locations you have access to, the more content you will be unable to unblock.
In reality, though, you will only likely be unblocking content from a small number of countries. If this is the case, do you really need servers in 90+ countries?
Number Of Servers Locations In Each Country
One thing that can be especially useful is having a few different server locations in popular countries. This is useful as it means that should one server go down, or be congested, or just be working slower than usual, then you be able to switch over to a server in the same country that actually does work.
Servers Near To Your Physical Location
One of the biggest advantages to having a high number of available servers is that you are more likely to have one near to your physical location.
When you use a VPN, your data is sent to the VPN server on the way to its final destination and also on the way back to your computer. If the server is far away, this can seriously increase latency and decrease speed.
If your VPN provider has a lot of server options, it is far more likely that there will be a server near to your physical location. By choosing this server, you could notice a speed increase.
ExpressVPN and PIA Servers
So of the two VPN providers, ExpressVPN has significantly more server locations than PIA. ExpressVPN have servers in 145 different locations in 94 different countries. This includes an impressive 15 server locations in the US, three in Canada, two in Australia, and five in the UK.
However, if you choose PIA you won’t exactly be stuck for choices when it comes to VPN servers. They have servers in 25 different countries including ten in the US, two in Canada, two in Australia and two in the UK.
One interesting thing to point out is that while ExpressVPN has more server locations, according to their respective websites, PIA has over double the number of actual servers when compared to ExpressVPN.
- 94 Countries
- 145 Locations
Private Internet Access
- 25 Countries
- 37 Locations
This could mean that PIA servers are less likely to be congested and could, therefore, offer faster speeds. We don’t have any hard data on this, however.
While having a large choice when it comes to servers is certainly a good thing, in reality, when using the VPN you will likely just stick to a couple of servers that work for you.
Because of this, unless you have a reason for needing so many servers it would probably be best to simply check the server list on each company’s website, check they have servers in locations you need, and then focus on other aspects of their service when deciding on which VPN is for you.
When it comes to your internet, we all know how important speed is. If your connection isn’t fast enough then streaming movies, downloading, and even simple web browsing can become a pain.
It is a shame then, that when you use a VPN your connection will be slightly slower than it is when you don’t use a VPN. This comes down to a number of things including:
- The extra time it takes to encrypt your data
- The extra distance your data has to travel to the VPN server
- Congestion on the server
As you can see, there are many variables that could affect the speed you get from your VPN. Because of these variables, we have opted not to do a speed test in this review due to the fear that we could show one VPN to be better than the other, when in reality it was simply the conditions that were better for one of the VPNs.
Think about it. While one VPN might give better speeds to someone living in New York and connecting to a server in Germany on a Thursday evening with AES 256-bit encryption, another VPN may be better for someone living in India, connecting to a VPN in New Zealand on a Saturday morning with AES 128-bit encryption.
The point is, both these VPNs offer good server speeds and you will likely see little difference between the two.
How To Ensure The Best Possible Speeds
If you want to ensure the best possible speeds, there are a few things that you can do. Firstly, choose a VPN server close to your physical location. This means that your data will not have to travel that much further than it would normally.
As well as this, assuming security isn’t a priority you can turn the encryption level down so that it takes less time for your data to be encrypted.
Finally, it can always be a help to simply connect to a few different servers and see which one provides you with the fastest connection.
Benefits Of A VPN
Since you have gotten this far into the article I’m going to assume you already know about some of the benefits of a VPN. Here is a quick reminder of why you may want one.
Given how much we rely on and use the internet these days, it is no wonder that people want to ensure their privacy when using the internet. Recent issues such as the NSA data collection scandal show that governments have both the ability to collect large amounts of data about us and, more worryingly, that you don’t have to have done anything wrong to be a victim.
Using a VPN, while by no means foolproof, is a great way to get a bit of extra privacy online and reduce the chances that anyone will be able to spy on your browsing.
Open Up The Internet
With the rise of streaming services, the amount of content that is geo-blocked is also rapidly on the rise. Using a VPN can help you access some content that would otherwise be geo-blocked.
As well as this, certain websites may be blocked in your country or a country that you are traveling in. Ever been to China? In China accessing everyday websites that most of the world takes for granted such as Google, Youtube, and Facebook is pretty much impossible.
However, by connecting to a VPN you are able to bypass these government censors and have the same access to this content as the rest of the world does.
No More ISP Throttling
Throttling is a way for your ISP to control how much of certain types of data a user of their service is allowed to use. While not so much of a problem at the moment, ISPs that throttled their users would check to see what kind of data was being sent and slow-down (or “throttle”) certain types of traffic.
This was most commonly used against people who streamed video on the internet, making it pretty much impossible for them to do so.
If your ISP is throttling your data, using a VPN can help to stop this from happening. This is because when the VPN encrypts your traffic your ISP cannot see the type of data (IP addresses associated with the destination or ports used) that is being sent and is, therefore, unable to “throttle” the traffic.
Secure Your Connection
The fact that VPNs encrypt your data mean that it is much harder for anyone, such as hackers, to see the data you are sending.
Let’s say you are on a public network in a local cafe. If the network is unprotected, literally anyone has access to the network. This means that they are at risk from hackers who could try to access these networks to steal your data.
However, by using a VPN, even if a hacker can see your connection, they would be able to see what you are doing online meaning that your data will stay safe and out of their hands.
Express VPN vs PIA: Conclusion
So, there you have it. Two great VPNs side by side and ready to be chosen.
Both VPNs offer all the features that you need from a VPN. In terms of differentials, ExpressVPN offers a load more server locations, while PIA offers advanced features like a SOCKS5 proxy and a NAT firewall.
In reality, you are unlikely to go wrong with either of these VPNs. At the end of the day, you will simply have to choose the one with the features that you need most and jump right in.
Remember, both VPNs offer a money back guarantee, so if it turns out that you choose the wrong one, you can always get your money back and