The most improved VPN provider in our latest testing may just surprise you

Private Internet Access (PIA)
(Image credit: Private Internet Access)

Some VPNs barely change over a year; sometimes even over a few years. We'll check back during our regular VPN testing, spend an age looking for new features, and the most exciting addition might be a Dark Mode.

That wasn't a problem with our latest Private Internet Access review, though, where we found one of the longest lists of major updates and changes we've ever seen during our latest testing (the results of which we revealed today).

And the result is that PIA has just jumped up to its highest position in our chart ever, jumping up a place to join elite company like ExpressVPN and NordVPN in our top five.

VPN server, support and app improvements

So what does a VPN provider need to do to make a mark with our reviewers - well, here's a few examples of what PIA did...

- Expanded its faster and more secure NextGen VPN network to a massive 35,000+ servers. That followed a deployment of new servers to the network, in addition to PIA's existing legacy servers. You can expect a number of legacy servers to be decommissioned soon (in order to, in PIA's words, fulfil its "commitment to service quality"), but the total server count is still likely to be in excess of what most other VPNs currently offer.

- Extended product range now includes dedicated IPs in Australia, Canada, Germany, UK and US, for an extra $5 a month.

- PIA's Android VPN app is one of the first to be certified by the ioXt Alliance - confirmation that it's following best security practices.

- Free Identity Guard system raises the alert if your email addresses show up in a data breach.

- App-related updates include stronger encryption, and a flexible new system for automatically connecting to the VPN when you access particular networks.

- Finally added 24/7 live chat support on the company's site.

Private Internet Access mobile apps

(Image credit: Private Internet Access)

Of course, Private Internet Access still isn't the perfect product, and there are good reasons why another four services outrank it in our best VPN countdown. For instance, we saw very mixed results in our speed performance tests - great in some areas, poor in others - which held its score back. While it won;t be your best choice if you're hoping for a BBC iPlayer VPN - it lacks the unblocking prowess of the very best streaming VPN options.

We're not about to complain too much when a company is this busy, though, and it's great to see a provider making such a huge effort to improve the service. If you've looked at Private Internet Access a year or two ago and found the VPN didn't quite suit your needs, it might be worth checking it out again: there's a lot of new features to explore!

Mike Williams
Lead security reviewer

Mike is a lead security reviewer at Future, where he stress-tests VPNs, antivirus and more to find out which services are sure to keep you safe, and which are best avoided. Mike began his career as a lead software developer in the engineering world, where his creations were used by big-name companies from Rolls Royce to British Nuclear Fuels and British Aerospace. The early PC viruses caught Mike's attention, and he developed an interest in analyzing malware, and learning the low-level technical details of how Windows and network security work under the hood.