ExpressVPN is probably the biggest name in the VPN-verse today. And PIA is nearly there too. ExpressVPN’s reputation comes from being at the industry’s top for an extended period. PIA is known because it owns the largest server network in the business. But how much fire is behind all this smoke?
We endeavored to test both VPNs head to head to determine any significant differences, even though they share the same parent company, Kape Technologies Ltd. The result is the article you’re reading.
We compared both VPNs in a series of crucial specifications, consistent with the method we constantly use to see how different VPNs perform against each other.
We found both services to be excellent. They provide high speeds, good security and privacy features, and much more besides. However, there is a clear winner. One VPN is the best option to use in 2023.
PIA vs ExpressVPN: The general outlook
We start with the server network in each vendor. For example, PIA’s network is the largest in the market, with more than 30,000 servers in 84 countries; ExpressVPN has over 3,000 servers in 91 countries. So can ExpressVPN hold up a candle to a VPN with ten times at many servers? Well, numbers aren’t everything. ExpressVPN’s servers have advantages other than strength in numbers.
Both providers stick to a strict no-logs policy.
PIA offers WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2/IPsec in the VPN protocols front. ExpressVPN’s offer is similar. However, it also has WireGuard, in a proprietary implementation it calls Lightway, and the additional L2TP/IPsec tunnel available.
We know that PIA can unblock Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu. ExpressVPN unblocks those, plus Disney +, BBC iPlayer, and more. So basically, any video streaming that can be unlocked with a VPN gets unlocked with ExpressVPN.
The software provided by both VPNs includes every critical operating system and platform (Linux, macOS, Windows, Android, and iOS). In addition, they both offer browser plugins for Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. But, then, only ExpressVPN supports Microsoft Edge, and only PIA supports Opera. However, the plugins are not directly comparable because they are developed as different concepts –more on that later.
One PIA account is suitable for ten concurrent connections, while ExpressVPN will support five only.
Both websites offer similar services in the customer service department, except that ExpressVPN has a good FAQ.
Read also: Private Internet Access vs NordVPN
ExpressVPN’s excellent reputation includes being one of the fastest VPNs out there. It comes courtesy of Lightway, which is ExpressVPN’s own implementation of the WireGuard VPN tunneling protocol, which is the most efficient and modern such protocol. However, there are other reasons to expect high speeds from any server in this network, regardless of the protocol.
PIA also has a WireGuard option (although not as customized and developed as Lightway). The problem is we could not test PIA’s WireGuard protocol this time because it’s unavailable for Windows users. This is unfortunate. It’s hard for us to understand why the fastest protocol is unavailable for the most prominent user pool on the planet, but that’s how it is. Thus direct tests were out of the question for this protocol, which is a great shame. This lack of foresight on PIA’s part would be enough to give the category to ExpressVPN even without testing because it’s evident that the other protocols in either VPN can’t match WireGuard’s performance. But we will carry on as usual, anyway.
We started with OpenVPN, the industry’s golden standard and available in both VPNs. It’s not the fastest tunnel around, but it’s the one that has passed every audit ever made. It’s secure, reliable, and transparent.
So here’s what we found: ExpressVPN’s OpenVPN option allowed us to keep precisely one-third of our upload speeds and a slightly lower portion of our upload speeds (32%). The corresponding numbers with PIA were 12.67 and 13.67%. So ExpressVPN is almost three times as fast as PIA on downloads and about twice as fast on uploads.
Of course, the kind reader should never forget that internet speeds are a tricky and sensitive thing that relies on too many external factors. So you shouldn’t be surprised if your experience varies slightly. Moreover, if you get lucky in picking a server that’s particularly ready to serve you correctly, you could find performance peaks. But you can’t expect to win the lottery every time you buy a ticket. However, the overall situation is evident in the OpenVPN camp, and ExpressVPN wins it hands down.