You’re probably here because you want a VPN and you’ve whittled down your comparison list to either IP Vanish or Private Internet Access (which is often abbreviated to PIA).
Both of these VPN providers are based in the US, and have been on the market for some time now – PIA (2010) has been in the game a little longer than IPVanish (2014).
They offer a very similar set of features, which we’re going to go through. And they both give you the option to use a SOCKS5 proxy, which still isn't widely offered today.
Let’s take a look and see what they do, how private they are (and how they provide it).
Tell Me Briefly, Why Would I Want A VPN?
There are a few reasons why online users want to use a VPN. We thought we’d quickly go through the big 4 that most people are concerned with.
In this day and age it feels more and more like we’re being spied on. From authorities and ISPs innocently (or not) capturing your casual browsing, to marketing companies capturing analytical data of where you bought your last pair of shoes online, so that they can target you again.
Of course there are also users who want to download ‘illegal content’ using torrents (no, we’re not going to get dragged into the legalities of this right now – nor how unethical it may or may not be!), or access ‘adult’ content without wanting ANYONE knowing about it.
People nowadays just want more anonymity when they’re online. A VPN can protect your online activity from being scrutinized, whether intentional, or not.
Access Location Restricted Content & Services
Do you remember the days of DVDs, when discs were ‘regional’, and only available on players set in that region (ok, so there were hacks around that, we know)?
Seems like things haven’t changed too much. With the boom in recent years of Netflix, Hulu and other online video and music content, users are becoming more used to realizing that the movie or TV show they really want to watch is not available in the country they are in.
How do our favorite streaming providers know this? Well, it mostly comes down to IP addresses. You see, without going too deep into this, your IP address (the one assigned to you by your ISP) is country specific. So if Netflix US has a TV show you really want to see, but you’re based in the UK, by default you can’t watch it.
This is where a VPN comes in. By connecting to a VPN server in the US (which will have a US IP address), you trick the streaming provider into thinking that you are using a US ISP, and thus live in the good ole’ US of A!
It’s not just streaming, this applies to online gaming, websites that are blocked by the government, and even making card payments. This is especially the case if you’re abroad and want to use your card online. It’s quite common for your bank to ’block’ your card because they think someone is maliciously trying to make a payment.
By connecting to a VPN server in your own country, the bank thinks you are ‘home’, and you should be able to make the purchase and not be on the phone having to explain to the bank that you can’t withdraw cash anymore as they’ve wrongly blocked your card.
Avoid ISP Throttling
This was once was a big problem a few years ago. Back in the day, a combination of congestion of internet backbones and ISPs being cheap and buying limited bandwidth along with oversubscribing users meant that the only way ISPs could ‘control’ traffic usage was to ‘throttle’.
Throttling (or Traffic Shaping) is a method of controlling how much of certain traffic types and/or user data, is allowed to be used at any one time. It is usually used to help stop total congestion on the internet, which doesn’t help anyone, but it is, and was incredibly annoying.
This practice is still used today, but perhaps isn’t as common as it once was.
Regardless, a VPN can get you around a lot of this traffic shaping. It does this because the actual data you are sending/receiving is encapsulated within the VPN tunnel. Your ISP doesn’t know what type of traffic it is and so is unable to limit that type of traffic.
Protect Against Local Hacking
If you’re on a public network then others are too. Not only that, but often public wifi networks are ‘open’ and unencrypted. How do you know what anyone else on the network is doing? Are they snooping on what you are doing?
A way to help stop this is to use a VPN, which encapsulates and encrypts your data so that it appears as gobbledygook to anyone trying to see your data.
Actually, we went into quite a lot of detail there on the ‘Why a VPN?’ section… Sorry about that! Time to move onto the features that IPVanish and Private Internet Access have.
IPVanish VPN Top Features
- Servers in 60+ countries
- Protocols: OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, PPTP
- Up to five simultaneous connections
- 256-bit encryption
- Unlimited P2P traffic
- Apps for all main operating systems
- SOCKS5 proxy
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Unlimited speed
PIA Top Features
- Servers in 25 countries
- Protocols: OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP/IPSec
- Up to five simultaneous connections
- 256-bit encryption
- Ad, tracker, malware blocker
- Can use with P2P
- SOCKS5 Proxy
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Unlimited speed
Shared Features On Both IPVanish And PIA
OpenVPN, IPSec/L2TP and PPTP are available for both. Although PPTP is very well supported and can be pretty fast, we recommend avoiding it whenever you can. It is not particularly secure, which kind of defeats the purpose of using a VPN!
When at all possible, use OpenVPN.
OpenVPN supports both TCP and UDP VPN. If you’re into online gaming for example, then make sure you’re using UDP. It is unidirectional, in that it doesn’t require a response from whatever you are trying to talk to, thus speeding up the data flow. Gaming traffic uses UDP in any case.
AES 256-bit Encryption
Both use very secure AES 256-bit encryption key lengths. PIA defaults to 128-bit encryption (which is still pretty decent), but this can easily be changed in the settings.
SOCKS5 Proxy Server
You have the option to use a ‘secure’ proxy as well. It’s same as a VPN in that you connect to a server (and so hiding your real IP address) and hop onto the destination. It is different in that your data is not encrypted as well (although better than a traditional proxy server), so be careful, as any third parties snooping the server could steal your data.
One of the big advantages is that proxy servers can be faster than VPNs (as long as there is a low load on them) due to the fact that the traffic is not heavily encrypted, which can slow things down.
Note that SOCKS5 does not support authentication with most web browsers. It is more commonly used with torrent clients, helping to mask the fact that you are downloading torrents. Check that the app or software you are using supports a SOCKS5 proxy.
You can use the proxy server combined with a VPN if you want that extra level of privacy.
Zero Traffic Logs
One of the biggies for any VPN user who wants to remain anonymous. If anyone wants to find out who has been accessing their site or downloading a particular piece of software, PIA do not hold data logs, so there’s no connection between correlation between you and the connection to their site.
The enquiring party will only know that someone (you) has connected from the VPN server, to their site.
Up To 5 Devices Simultaneously
Both providers are generous with device usage. They allow for up to 5 devices to connect to their VPN services concurrently, so this is great for family use.
With IPVanish, there are some rules around this however. You can only connect once with PPTP or L2TP. All the other connections must be via OpenVPN. Or you could use IPSec or IKEv2, but they are only available with the iOS (Apple) app. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem anyway. PPTP is insecure and we recommend not using it. OpenVPN is a much better option and you won’t have any limitation issues (well, not at 5 or less devices at least!).
Bear in mind that there are some workarounds to allow as many connections as you like, relatively pain-free.
Install A VPN On Your Router
You could install either IPVanish or PIA on your router. As your router is the gateway to the internet, all your home devices will traverse the router and of course the VPN (unless you specifically tell the router not to). IPVanish & PIA will see these multiple connections as coming from one device (the router), so this is a totally legit and advertised way of making the most out of your VPN.
To do this you will most likely need to ‘get your hands dirty’. And by that we mean you will need to do some pretty major modifications. The two realistic options are:
1) ‘Flashing’ open source firmware onto your router. The most well-known are DD-WRT, OpenWRT or Tomato firmware. When you have this new firmware on your router, there are parameters available for you to manually populate with your VPN credentials. Be careful doing this. If you flash on the wrong firmware or don’t install it properly, there’s a very good chance you will destroy your router. Also know that your router warranty will be voided if it’s still available.
2) The other option is to buy a pre-flashed router. Flashrouters provide this service and often include warranties. Or you could buy a router with stock firmware that lets you connect outbound VPNs.
You could do something similar with a PC, but it’s a little cumbersome to set up, and not something we’re going to get into or recommend. We’d rather just let you know it’s an option thanks!
No Bandwidth Or Data Caps
No need to worry about being capped on how much you are using either PIA or IPVanish. There is no limit on the amount of bandwidth being used or how much data has transferred.
This is sadly a feature that is overlooked and soon realized when users sign up to free or very cheap services. Oftentimes, these services will cap the bandwidth and/or data to really limit what you can do with the VPN. There are reasons why the good VPNs are paid, and this is one of them!
If you’re worried about accidentally leaking your real IP address because your VPN drops, don’t worry.
Both PIA and IPVanish have a ‘kill switch’ which, when enabled, will block your connection to the internet should your VPN drop for any reason. This stops you from showing your real address if your VPN goes down (whether you were aware of it or not).
A NAT firewall helps keep you safer against malicious attacks from the internet. When you connect to a VPN, you ‘tunnel’ through your router and in doing so through the NAT functionality of the router.
What does this mean?
Well, it means your VPN IP is a public IP that connects directly into you and so anyone on the internet can get to your device on whatever ports you have open. A NAT firewall ‘NATs’ your connection, so that attempts to access your VPN IP on specific ports will not get to you, because both IPVanish & PIA NAT to another address. This drops any outside packets from reaching your device.
DNS Leak Protection
Helps ensure that you don’t accidentally leak traffic when making DNS queries (revealing where you are actually browsing from), even though all your other traffic is encrypted and traversing the VPN IP.
Normally you would use DNS servers allocated to you by your ISP. Leak protection helps to make sure that you use the VPN DNS servers, avoiding logs being taken of where you are accessing.
You can choose to boot up the VPN client whenever your Device switches on, and you can also automatically choose which server to connect to.
Difference Between IPVanish and PIA (and what did we like from each)?
IPVanish Exclusive Features That We Like:
Ways To Choose VPN Server
There are different ways to choose which VPN server to connect to.
The ‘List’ view shows all the countries in a list. They can be sorted in one click by any of the following:
- Alphabetical Order
- Response Time
Alphabetical order is useful if you know exactly which country to connect to, as you can quickly scroll to your country of choosing. Response time is handy is handy if you’re looking to connect to the server with the lowest latency from where you are located. So, speed is the essence here. But you have to weigh that up with ‘Load’, which is the amount of load resource on that server.
There’s also ‘Favorited’ which is obviously empty until you add servers to your Favorite list.
If you know the region you want to connect to, you can click the circle on the region (which has a number of servers). The IPVanish software will automatically pick the fastest server at that time.
There’s also a very cool filter option.
You can filter to only show specific servers based on any of the following:
The first two need no further explanation. But within Latency, is the option to only show servers with a response time lower than 50ms, between 50ms and 100ms, 100ms and 150ms, 150ms and 200ms, and greater than 200ms.
With all these filters, you can very quickly drill down the best VPN servers to connect to based on your needs and accepted thresholds.
Periodic IP Changing
There’s the option to automatically change your IP address every 45 minutes or more. This feature helps build up a little more anonymity should it be needed.
Be aware that you will temporarily have no VPN connection while the IP address changes.
PIA does not currently have this feature.
PIA Exclusive Features That We Like
It’s possible to select the amount of encryption you want, rather than taking what’s given to you. You can choose between AES 128-bit, 256-bit or Blowfish encryption. SHA1 orSHA256 authentication and you also have the choice between different Handshake encryption levels.
The default levels are actually pretty good. You can tweak them to be more secure, just know that this will affect performance the more secure you get.
Don’t get us wrong, we like the IPVanish interface, it’s very polished.
However, PIA is just really basic. We love that. Perhaps we’re a little old fashioned, but sometimes it’s nice to have the bare basics displayed with a bare basic look – erm, did that make sense?
Location, Location, Location.
Server location is of course very important. But can too many locations be a bad thing? Well, no.
IP Vanish has a pool of over 40,000 shared IP addresses, on over 750 servers spread across 60 countries.
PIA has over 3,000 servers in 25 countries.
So, there’s more on offer from IPVanish. In all honesty, you’re probably only going to use a handful of VPN servers from specific countries (likely the US, UK and your country of residence being the most popular), that you’ll likely save as favorites. Check out each website for the full list of countries.
We may do a speed test in the future, but to be honest there are far too many variables to portray an accurate result.
Variables include the load and response times on the chosen server, where any anomalies are potentially multiplied by two on the speed test server, for exactly the same reason.
Like we said, we may do this in the future, but we thought that we may unfairly portray one VPN to be slower than the other at the time of testing. Theoretically however, we could be testing when one provider is having a ‘bad day’ and that just wouldn’t be fair.
Let’s just say that when using both VPN providers with OpenVPN (UDP) AES 256-bit encryption, the speeds of the closest server to our location will likely be anywhere between 5%-20% slower on average than not using a VPN.
If you want to get the fastest speed we recommend using the proxy server, if whatever you are doing supports it….or if VPN only, using PPTP (if you don’t care too much on encryption), or using OpenVPN with UDP (not TCP) if you want more security.
Plans & Pricing
There are three pricing tier plans for both providers:
- 1 month
- 3 months
There is a free trial available, but only for those using iOS devices. Luckily there is a money-back guarantee for everyone else, but it’s only for 7 days, so make sure you test out the VPN fast.
Private Internet Access Plans
- 1 month
- 6 months
PIA offers a 7 day money back guarantee.
We’re not going to get into how much each plan is, as they deviate regularly (and we don’t to publish the wrong price here and mislead you!).
You can go straight to the pricing page for both sites by clicking through on the buttons below:
IPVanish vs PIA: Conclusion
There’s not much to choose from between these two.
They generally offer the same features (with a couple of exceptions), with the same encryption types.
We can’t recommend any one particular VPN because each user has their own wants and needs which will likely be different from another users.
Having said that, if you want more choice of servers around the world, then you probably should opt for IPVanish, based purely on the fact that they have a bigger pool VPN servers across more countries. The likelihood is that PIA will have servers in all the countries you want to connect to anyway.
Your best bet is to use trial each VPN and try them out for yourself to get a feeling for how good they are against exactly what you want to do.