Interface And Setup
PIA might instantly grab your attention with its payment methods advertised on its home page. Unlike most other services, PIA accepts anonymous gift cards. Did somebody give you a Best Buy or Walmart card for your birthday? Psshhh! You don’t need more junk from them! Give yourself the gift of privacy -- anonymously -- from card sources ranging from Adidas to Williams-Sonoma. You can also procure a PIA “gift card” for someone, who then obtains PIA subscription time upon entering the card’s code.
Like other services, PIA offers Windows, Mac OS X, Android, iOS, Ubuntu and other device installers. We installed the Windows client, but it is not the pretty, many-tabbed toy that HMA! or IPVanish provides. Rather, it’s just a stripped-down settings window you can view in either Simple or Advanced modes. The former merely prompts for your username, password, start-up options and which of PIA’s 21 server regions you wish to connect with. The Advanced view adds pull-down menus for encryption, authentication and handshake methods, along with the note that PIA recommends you use the default settings (AES-128 / SHA1 / RSA-2048). It’s completely bare. No maps, nada. You have to check the system tray just to see if the PIA icon is green or red (active or not), although this icon also gives you a quick way to select from the full list of regional server locations.
PIA advertises a “massive network with 2091+ gateways” across “13+ countries.” It also claims to have “the most anonymous VPN service,” presumably thanks to its numerous encryption options and lack of logging. Like HMA!, PIA also supports port forwarding and disconnect protection, although we did not see a way to have PIA automatically and periodically change IP addresses. We do appreciate that PIA allows for five simultaneous devices. Especially at PIA’s prices, that’s pretty generous.