The PIA VPN is straightforward to install and configure. The configuration settings were found to be set to the most secure options by default.
Applications are available for Windows, Linux, macOS, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. For this review, the iOS app was installed on an iPad and evaluated.
The interface is minimalist, with an obvious on/off button that changes color with connectivity status and a clear indication of the connected VPN server.
In addition, the display includes a world map with a dot highlighting the geographical location of the linked server and shows its IP address.
Switching to a different server was straightforward. A quick-connect list of the last six distinct servers used makes it simple to swap frequently used locations.
Alternatively, pressing the world map brings up a list of all the available servers that can be sorted by name, latency, or favorites if the user has pre-selected a preferred list of locations.
While the service supports a global network, the focus is on the US. The application offers connections through servers located in 78 different countries, but there is only one connection option for most countries. For the US, there are 15 locations available; for the UK, there are 4. Once connected, the VPN connection is transparent to the user. In addition, the VPN service includes an automatic Kill Switch function if the VPN connection drops unexpectedly, blocking the internet connection to prevent a data leak.
Another exciting feature is the support for split tunneling that allows users to choose which applications connect via the VPN and which can bypass the VPN tunnel and connect directly to the ISP server. The network management options also include automatic configuration based on network connection types, such as Open WiFi, Secure WiFi, or mobile data. Network traffic can be encrypted using either AES-128 or AES-256, configurable by the user.
For both encryption strengths, the user can also select to use a Cipher Block Chaining (CBC) mode or the more secure Galois Counter Mode (CBM) of operation.
Handshaking can also be configured to use SHA96, SHA160, or SHA256.
A helpful feature is the inclusion of an Adblocker function that claims to also block trackers and malware by monitoring network requests at a DNS level and preventing requests being sent rather than simply blocking harmful content once received.
The PIA application will also support using an anonymous static IP address that can be purchased as an add-on to the product subscription for an additional fee.