ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access are probably the two best-recognized names on the VPN market, and today we review them side by side. You’ll get in depth comparisons of each provider’s key features, plus recommendations on how to choose the best VPN for your needs.
If you’re on the lookout for a VPN service to subscribe to, you have likely noticed that there are hundreds of different VPN providers out there. Some VPNs are very untrustworthy, like the free VPN services that we’ve warned you against before.
However, even among the high quality VPN providers there is a lot of choice. So you might be wondering what you should base your decision of a VPN provider on, and how different providers stack up against each other.
That’s the topic we’re tackling today, with an in depth look at two different VPN providers: ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access. We’ll talk about the features of each and compare them so that you can see which one would best suit your needs. Read on for our full article on ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access.
Why You Need A VPN, In Short
A VPN is increasingly essential in today’s digital climate, for keeping you safe on public wifi and for protecting your privacy. The safety features of a VPN work by encrypting all of the data that your device sends over the internet, so that no one can intercept or observe your data. This means that hackers are kept out of your system and neither your ISP nor the government can snoop on your internet activities.
Another handy feature of a VPN is that it lets you access region locked content, thanks to the way you connect to a server to encrypt the data. You can choose to connect to a server either in your country or somewhere else in the world, and when you connect you’ll browse the internet as if you were located in the country where the server is. So, for example, if you connect to a server in the US then you’ll be able to watch videos on the Comedy Central website for free, and if you connect to a server in the UK you can use the BBC iPlayer to watch your favourite British shows.
Two of the most popular and well-regarded VPN services you’ll find promoted online are ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access. Below we’ll go through the key features of both options and compare them so you can choose which service is right for you.
ExpressVPN vs Private Internet Access
As you would expect from reputable VPN providers, both ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access have the security features that are essential for a VPN. They have the option to use strong encryption: ExpressVPN uses 256-bit encryption by default, while Private Internet Access uses 128-bit encryption by default but has an option available for using 256-bit encryption instead. This means that your data will be kept safe and people won’t be able to crack your encryption.
In addition, both ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access have a no logging policy, which means that they do not record data about their users’ browsing habits or other online activities. This is essential to protect your privacy. Both services will effectively hide your IP address and keep you anonymous online, and with both services there are no bandwidth caps or restrictions on use so you can browse or download as much as you want without worrying about hitting a cap.
With that said, there are differences between the two services that we’ll cover below:
Number Of Servers
It’s helpful for your VPN service to have a large number of servers that you can use, as this gives you the best chance of finding a server which is fast and reliable. It also helps to have servers available in many different countries, so that you can access the internet from a variety of locations. Fortunately, both ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access have large server networks covering many countries so you’ll be set with either.
ExpressVPN has a network of over 3,000 servers in 94 different countries, including the US, Canada, UK, Netherlands, Sweden, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Unusually for a VPN, there are also servers available in African countries like Kenya, South Africa, and Algeria. You can find a full list of available ExpressVPN servers here: https://www.expressvpn.com/vpn-server
Private Internet Access, on the other hand, has an absolutely huge network with more than 3,200 servers available. However, the number of countries that servers are available in is smaller, at 28 countries including the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, France, Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Japan, Israel, and Mexico. So although fewer countries and represented, these countries are spread over Europe, North America, Central America, and Asia.
Overall, ExpressVPN wins in terms of servers because it has so many different countries available, which is excellent for flexibility as you can access content from all over the world.
Another factor to consider when choosing a VPN is the speed of the connections. Whenever you connect to a VPN, your data has to be passed to the server in an extra step, so your internet speeds will always be somewhat slower when using a VPN. However, a good VPN will have such fast connections available that you barely even notice a difference in speed.
In terms of our two contenders, ExpressVPN has a reputation for having the fastest speeds of any VPN provider – hence the “Express” name. And our testing has shown this to be accurate, with super fast speeds that are perfect for users who like to download large files with no waiting around.
The connections of Private Internet Access are also fast, and are absolutely able to handle high definition video streaming and other bandwidth-heavy activities. Both providers will give you a fully fast and useable VPN, but our testing found that ExpressVPN is just a bit faster.
Works With Netflix?
One common reason that users want a VPN is so that they can access geo locked content – meaning content that is only available in some countries. A particularly popular website is Netflix, which lets users stream movies and TV shows through their website. But Netflix only has the rights to stream content in certain countries, so you’ll find a different catalogue of content to watch in different countries. Some countries, like Netflix in the US, have massive catalogues that let you watch all sorts of things. But in other countries, like Hong Kong or India, the selection of content available on the local version of Netflix is much more limited.
For this reason, many users want a way to watch Netflix content from other countries. For example, if you live in India and you have a Netflix account, you want a way to access the US Netflix catalogue as well as the India Netflix catalogue. It used to be that you could easily achieve this by getting around region blocks using a VPN. However, Netflix have since changed their service to prevent people from accessing it with a VPN. Now most VPNs don’t work with Netflix.
The good news for Netflix users is that ExpressVPN is one of the small number of VPNs that does work with Netflix. In testing it has been repeatedly found to be the most reliable way to access Netflix and watch content from around the world. If you need advice on watching Netflix with ExpressVPN you can see the guide on their website here. Or, if you’re having trouble connecting, check out our troubleshooting guide for unblocking Netflix with ExpressVPN.
Private Internet Access, on the other hand, said in 2016 that they would stop officially supporting Netflix, as it was too hard to keep up with the constant changes to the Netflix VPN detection. Technically, this means that Private Internet Access will not always work with Netflix. However, in testing we found that we were able to access Netflix in the US, UK, and Brazil using Private Internet Access – but remember that this may or may not continue to work in the future.
Either service works well for unblocking geo locked content, but the winner is clear since ExpressVPN offers reliable access to Netflix.
User Friendliness Of Software
Usually, once you have chosen a VPN then you will install the software created by your VPN provider onto your device. You’ll use this software to select a server, to connect and disconnect, and to change settings so that you can have your VPN set up just as you like it. This means that it’s worth looking at the software provider by both ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access to see which is easier to use for the average user.
The software from ExpressVPN is very simple, featuring one large button in the centre of the main screen for connecting to the VPN and smaller buttons at the bottom for either choosing a location or using the smart location feature. The extra features in the software include a handy speed test to help you find the fastest server you can, and a DNS leak test and IP address checker so that you can be sure about your security. Finally, you can view diagnostic information if you are having any problems with the software.
The software from Private Internet Access is similarly minimal and easy to use. It is a application which will run in your system tray and will pop up notifications when you connect or disconnect using your device’s native notification system. You can right click on the icon in the system tray to quickly pick a country to connect to, or you can hit the settings option to bring up a panel. From this panel you can either click on manage favourites to bring up a list of your favourite servers, including information about the speed of each, or you can hit advanced settings to see options like port forwarding, ad blocking, a kill switch, DNS leak protection, and encryption options. These advanced settings are great for tweaking your connection to meet your needs – for example, we’d advise that you switch from 128-bit encryption to 256-bit encryption for the best possible security.
Overall, the ExpressVPN software is super simple to use which makes it ideal for beginners who are just learning about VPNs. The Private Internet Access software is a little more complex as it has more options, but that makes it great for advanced users who want to be able to tweak their settings individually. While simplicity is king, it is nice to have a little more control at the ready. We’ll call it a draw.
Number Of Platforms Supported
When you purchase a VPN subscription, you can use this one subscription to protect all of your different devices at once. As long as software is available for your device, you can install it onto each device and make sure that they are all protected whenever you use them. This is why you should look at the platforms that are supported by each VPN, so you can see which VPN supports the devices that you use.
ExpressVPN supports a massive range of devices – more so than any other VPN that we’ve looked at. The software can be installed on the basic platforms like Windows, Android, iOS, Mac, and Linux, plus games consoles like Playstation and Xbox, and other devices like AppleTV and Amazon FireTV.
Private Internet Access offers software that can be installed on Windows 7 or above, macOS 10.9 or above, Linuy, iOS, and Android. These are the main platforms that people want to install a VPN on.
ExpressVPN is the winner here, with software for not only the essential operating systems but also other devices like games consoles and smart TVs.
Browser Extensions Available
As well as software that can be installed onto your devices, some VPNs offer browser extensions that let you control your VPN from your web browser. This simple way to interact with a VPN is great if you do a lot of international browsing or you like to watch content online through services like Netflix or Hulu. You can connect or disconnect and choose a server for a particular location to connect to, all without leaving your web browser.
ExpressVPN has extensions available for all the most popular browsers: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari browser. The extension shows you a green checkmark in the toolbar when you are connected, and you can click on this icon to quickly disconnect from the VPN or to choose a new country to connect to.
Private Internet Access currently only offers a browser extension for Google Chrome, though you can also use Foxy Proxy to use the SOCKS5 proxy server with Firefox (see here for details). The Chrome extension is easy to use, with a simple toggle to turn the connection on and off and a country selector at the bottom to let you choose your server.
Though both VPNs have good extensions for Chrome, ExpressVPN wins this round as it offers extensions for Firefox and Safari as well.
Which Is Best For Which Users
In conclusion, both ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access have the essential features of a good VPN like strong security, a no logging policy, and no bandwidth caps. They also both have large server networks, fast connections, easy to use software, and browser extensions. But overall we found that ExpressVPN had an advantage over Private Internet Access in many of these categories. The simplicity of ExpressVPN makes it ideal for beginners or those who want a simple, no hassle VPN. However, Private Internet Access may be better for advanced users who want extra options and the ability to tweak their settings to their liking.
Special Offer – ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN is one of the most popular VPNs on the internet, due to its unbeatable trio of fast connections, good security, and easy to use software. The security features that will keep you safe include the use of strong 256-bit encryption to stop anyone from viewing or intercepting your data, and a no logging policy so you can be confident that your privacy will be protected. Other security features that you can check out include a kill switch to prevent you from accidentally sending unencrypted data by cutting off your internet connection whenever the VPN connection goes down, and DNS leak protection for privacy from DNS investigation.
The large server network gives you access to more than 3,000 servers in 160 locations in 94 different countries, and the software can be installed on platforms including Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and Android, plus some games consoles and smart TVs, and there are also browser extensions for the Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari browsers.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
- Unblocks US Netflix
- Super fast servers
- Govt-level AES-256 encryption
- Keeps no logs of personal data
- 24/7 Customer Service.
- Priced slightly higher.
We’re impressed by the security, speed, and ease of use of both ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access. We think that ExpressVPN just about wins this showdown for its beginner-friendly setup, but there are features in Private Internet Access that advanced users will appreciate.
Have you tried out either of these two VPN providers? Which did you prefer? Let us know in the comments below.
If you need a VPN for a short while when traveling for example, you can get our top ranked VPN free of charge. ExpressVPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. You will need to pay for the subscription, that’s a fact, but it allows full access for 30 days and then you cancel for a full refund. Their no-questions-asked cancellation policy lives up to its name.