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Surfshark vs Private Internet Access: which VPN is better?


Surfshark and Private Internet Access are two popular VPN options on the market. Each of them has its own strengths and weaknesses. Both of these providers are budget-friendly VPN options with great connection speed results and support all of the popular platforms and OS.

However, the great features are not the only thing you should look into when choosing a provider. Each of these VPNs have their weak spots and we’ll delve deeper into them as well, to see which one is the better VPN option for you.

In this Surfshark vs PIA comparison, these two providers will be put against each other in the speed, security, streaming options, price, and other features competition to name the best out of the two.

Surfshark vs PIA

Surfshark VPNPrivate Internet Access
⭐ Rating:
4.7
3.9
🥇 Overall rank:#2 out of #32#11 out of #32
🖥️ Servers:3200+ servers in 99 countries30000+ servers in 78 countries
📖 No logs policy:No logsNo logs
💵 Pricing:From $2.30/monthFrom $2.03/month
🔥 Coupons:Surfshark VPN coupon 82% OFFPIA coupon 83% OFF
🔒 VPN protocols:WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2Wireguard, OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec
🍿 Streaming services:Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and moreNetflix, YouTube, Hulu
🖥️ Platforms:Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome, FirefoxWindows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Opera
📥 Simultaneous connections:Unlimited10
💁🏻 Support:Knowledge base, 24/7 live chat, email supportKnowledge base, tickets, live chat

Speed performance: Surfshark vs PIA

In this part, you’ll see the speed results of Surfshark vs PIA comparison with different protocols. The data that is being compared are the average download and upload speeds for each provider.

  • Baseline: 300 Mbps download/300 Mbps upload

The first tested tunneling protocol is WireGuard – the industry’s fastest and most secure protocol. And from the results, it is clear that Surfshark takes the clear lead with both download and upload speeds from PIA’s results.

Surfshark provides double the download speed than PIA and has a slight edge with upload speed as well.

WireGuardSurfsharkPIA
Download average262.6 Mbps124.0 Mbps
Upload average169.8 Mbps154.6 Mbps

The next protocol tested was the OpenVPN UDP. Here the competition is closer with download speeds, PIA even takes the slight edge. But Surfshark surges forward with the upload speed results with a larger margin. Therefore, the win goes to Surfshark again.

OpenVPN UDPSurfsharkPIA
Download average120.2 Mbps126.8 Mbps
Upload average140.3 Mbps131.4 Mbps

Finally, the OpenVPN TCP protocol – here PIA is the clear winner. This protocol, overall, is slower than others and only recommended when others aren’t available. But, in any case, if you prefer to use this protocol, then PIA is a better provider with quicker download and upload speeds.

OpenVPN TCPSurfsharkPIA
Download average25.8 Mbps32.8 Mbps
Upload average28 Mbps37.6 Mbps
Wrapping up
Overall, Surfshark wins the speed comparison with better speed results, especially with the WireGuard protocol. Surfshark's download speed was 262.6 Mbps vs PIA's 124.0 Mbps. With other protocols, PIA’s results were quite impressive, but it was no competitor against the faster Surfshark VPN.

Features overview

Surfshark and PIA come with some great VPN features included. The security features that cover the bases, like strong data encryption and reliable speeds, and the extra splashes, like split tunneling, a kill switch, or even VPN adjacent antivirus are great. However, Surfshark still takes the winning spot, so let’s look deeper on why that is.

Kill switch

A reliable kill switch is a necessary security feature that all VPN providers need to have. Both Surfshark and PIA include a strong kill switch in their security features.

Surfshark has a strong and reliable kill switch, which, when enabled, will block all of our internet traffic, unless you’re connecting via VPN. This is a rather strict feature, since most other VPN providers only kill your connection when the connection with a VPN is interrupted.

However, Surfshark allows this feature customization – you can pick between a soft kill switch, which works like any other VPN provider’s, or for the maximum security pick the strict one..

Now, PIA also has a really reliable kill switch. It works like other kill switches, that once your connection to a VPN gets interrupted, PIA will drop your internet connection to protect your real IP address. And once the connection drops, PIA requires you to reconnect to your VPN again or turn your wifi on manually, so you don’t accidentally leak your real IP.

Split tunneling

Another shared security feature is split tunneling. This tool allows you to select which apps or websites are required to go through a VPN tunnel and which can bypass this requirement, even if you’re connected to a VPN.

Surfshark’s split tunneling feature is available only on Windows and Android platforms. When testing this feature we had no issues assigning apps that required a VPN connection and excluding the others. So Surfshark’s split tunneling works great without issues.

Surfshark VPN whitelister

To compare, we did run into some issues with PIA’s split tunneling feature. While it did have the advantage of providing this feature on Windows, Android, and macOS devices, it didn’t work as smoothly as Surfshark’s. This feature didn’t work with some of the websites that were selected to bypass the VPN requirement and kept lagging.

PIA Network preferences

Additionally, even though PIA offers this tool on more OS, it brings more issues, like on Android split tunneling only works with apps and not websites.

Antivirus

Both of these providers have their own antivirus software. They aren’t included with the VPN package but can be purchased together for very low prices.

Surshark One antivirus is a fairly new security tool and it comes with an all-round security bundle that covers Windows, macOS, and Android devices. This is a safe antivirus option that offers high-level protection from cyber threats, however, it doesn’t have an integrated firewall.

Surfshark antivirus dashboard

While this isn’t the most feature-rich antivirus software, it does provide solid security. The features include various scanning options (quick, full, scheduled, and drag-and-drop item scans), real-time protection from cyber threats, a secure search engine that blocks malicious sites and ads, and an alert feature that will let you know if your data has been leaked.

PIA also has a reliable but minimalistic antivirus suite. Unlike the VPN interface, PIA’s antivirus app is very clear and easy to use. However, this antivirus only supports Windows OS.

Some of the features you get with this antivirus include real-time protection, a web shield to block malicious ads, and a prevention engine, which fixes the device’s built-in defenses. There are also different scan types and detailed status reports.

Other notable features

To read more in depth about the features head over to our Surfshark or PIA reviews. However, there are some more exciting features that you should know, and here’s a quick look at some notable ones from Surfshark.

Surfshark comes with a really reliable obfuscation feature that hides that you’re even connected to a VPN. Additionally, there’s a GPS spoofer to hide your physical GPS location.

Another is the Safe search feature, which adds additional security from malicious websites and ads. An IP rotator will continuously change your IP address, and alerts function that will notify you whenever your data has been leaked.

Wrapping up
Surfshark comes out victorious against PIA in the feature comparison as well. Not only is it a more feature-rich provider, but even with the features that the providers share, it has more reliable security tools. Surfshark’s split tunneling, kill switch and web filter tools are more reliable than PIA’s.

Surfshark vs PIA: Which is more secure?

SurfsharkPrivate Internet Access
EncryptionAES-256-GCM and Chacha20Poly1305AES-128-CBC (default), AES-256-CBC (more secure)
HashSHA-512SHA-1 and SHA-256
RAM serversYesYes
Based inThe NetherlandsThe US
No-logs policyAuditedAudited

Security is one of the most important points for a VPN, and this is where Surfshark and PIA differentiate the most. From a quick look over of the features, you can see that Surfshark is clearly the more reliable and secure one out of the two.

Surfshark offers secure AES-256-GCM encryption and the additional Chacha20Poly135 encryption. While PIA’s default option is AES-128-CBC and alternatively the more secure AES-256-CBC encryption. But you should really stay away from PIA’s default settings due to the SHA-1 hash since it’s highly outdated.

And while both providers work on RAM-only servers, so they don’t store your data, Surfshark has a very clear user policy that prohibits user data sharing. Additionally, Surfshark has been independently audited twice by Cure53 to ensure your data protection, while PIA only recently had their very first audit by Deloitte. However, PIA’s user policy is really confusing and vague about what data they share.

Wrapping up
Surfshark is much more secure than PIA. The former has been audited twice, offers the strongest encryption, and its policy on security has no misunderstandings.

Infrastructure

For a reliable VPN, it is important to work on RAM-only servers. This ensures that your data is stored and collected in some hard drives for future use. Additionally, this can prevent data breaches, since RAM-only servers are wiped clean with every reset.

Luckily both Surfshark and PIA work on RAM-only servers. So both providers ensure that your data isn’t kept in a hard drive for future use, and cannot be recovered or stolen after server reset.

Privacy

Both Surfshark and PIA are based in countries that belong to Five-Eyes or Nine-Eyes intelligence alliances. This means that the government of these countries can request your data from the providers. Surfshark and PIA both ensure that they don’t share any information and confirm it with their no-logs policies.

Additionally, Surfshark has been audited twice by Cure53 to ensure that they don’t collect your data or share it with third parties. PIA only recently has been audited by Deloitte to ensure that they truly don’t collect your personal info.

A great security point is that both providers accept cryptocurrency payments for their products, so there’s no personal data connection to your account.

Logging

Information logging is where things get much trickier with PIA. Surfshark has a twice proven independently audited no-logs policy, so you can be certain that none of your info is logged in for future use. So even if the government asks for any of your information, Surfshark cannot provide anything.

On the other hand, PIA’s information logging claims are very confusing. Their policy states that this provider doesn’t log any of your information and it has been proven that upon the request they were unable to provide any personal user data. However, when it comes to sharing data with third parties, that’s when the policy claims become more generalized and unclear.

PIA does admit to collecting your username, IP, data usage, email address, payment data, cookie identifiers, the territory of origin, and ZIP code. And they allow themselves to share your data with the members of their group of companies when they find it to be “reasonably necessary”. PIA’s policies and never independently audited no-logs policy are certain points to be concerned over.

Netflix and streaming

For the best streaming experience, you need to choose Surfshark. With this provider, you’ll unblock all of the popular streaming sites, including Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and Disney+.

PlatformSurfsharkPrivate Internet Access
Netflix
Amazon Prime Video
Hulu
HBO Max
Disney+
BBC iPlayer
YouTube
DAZN

We’ve tested the stream quality with Surfshark and the videos were in high quality and we experienced no lags or buffers. Additionally, the large server fleet and variety of locations will help you access a variety of global content libraries and never run out of entertainment.

For further advantage, Surfshark has the SmartDNS feature that helps unblock streaming sites on devices that don’t support VPN apps, like your smart TVs.

Now when it comes to Private Internet Access, things are less impressive. This provider works with a few streaming sites, like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. Yet, even then there are issues. While Netflix US works well, the connection is slow, we experienced some lags, and the video quality wasn’t great. There were issues with different Netflix locations as well. However, PIA successfully works with any of their US servers with Hulu.

Additionally, PIA also has the SmartDNS feature, however, we couldn’t make it work. So this feature is weather unreliable.

Wrapping up
When it comes to streaming, Surfshark once again wins against PIA. This provider unblocks Netflix and other popular streaming sites and you get to enjoy the content in HD quality without lags or buffers.

Torrenting

It’s difficult to pick a clear winner between Surfshark and PIA when it comes to torrenting. Both of these providers are good and secure options for torrenting because both are P2P-compatible and optimized for faster downloading speeds. Additionally, both support torrenting on all of their servers.

Torrenting with Surfshark VPN

During our tests, we noted that both Surfshark and PIA have great download speeds and we had no issues downloading even bigger files. So if you’re looking for a VPN for torrenting either option is good based on their speeds and torrenting-friendly servers.

Wrapping up
Both Surfshark and PIA are great torrenting VPN options. They both provide great speeds and all their servers are P2P-compatible.

Plans and pricing

Just like with any other premium VPN provider you’ll see that the longer you commit to a subscription plan, the less you’ll have to pay. Surfshark vs PIA is no exception.

PlanSurfsharkPrivate Internet Access
Monthly$12.95/month$11.95/month
One year$3.99/month$3.33/month
Two years$2.30/monthN/A
Three yearsN/A$2.03/month
Check Surfshark DiscountsCheck PIA Coupons

Choosing the monthly price will always be the most expensive option. Surfshark then costs $12.95/month and PIA is just slightly cheaper at $11.95/month. For the best budget-friendly option we don’t recommend short-term subscriptions.

Luckily both Surfshark and PIA have large discounts for their long-term plans. And the costs for these prices are really close, with PIA coming out as just a slightly cheaper provider, but Surfshark covering more simultaneous devices.

Surfshark’s year-long plan would cost you $3.99/month and the two-year plan would come for $2.30/month. These are rather great deals considering Surfshark allows unlimited simultaneous connections.

However, PIA has even better options but covers up to 10 simultaneous connections. For a year-long plan, you’d pay only $3.33/month, and while there’s no two-year plan, you can choose the longest three-year subscription and only pay $2.03/month.

Additionally, Surfshark has a week-long free trial on Android, iOS, and macOS devices. And both of the providers offer a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.

Moving on to payment, both providers accept credit cards, PayPal, and cryptocurrencies. Additionally, Surfshark adds Google Pay to the list as well.

Wrapping up
Overall, both Surfshark and PIA are some of the cheapest VPNs on the market. And while PIA is just slightly cheaper, Surfshark covers more devices. Therefore there isn’t a clear winner in this category.

Servers and locations

SurfsharkPrivate Internet Access
Servers3200+30000+
Countries (total)9978
Americas912
Europe3842
Asia Pacific1425
Middle East & Africa45

Both of the providers offer a range of servers and locations to choose from, but there’s no competition with PIA’s massive server fleet.

With Surfshark you get 3200+ servers in 99 locations, which is more than enough options to pick a server. Yet, PIA blows it right out of the part with the shocking 30000+ servers in 78 locations.

However, it’s important to know that some of those PIA servers are virtual. These servers behave like the physical servers but your connection through them can be identified as going through a VPN tunnel much easier.

Wrapping up
PIA wins the server comparison battle thanks to the astounding number of 30000+ servers in 78 locations. On the other hand, Surfshark does cover more locations even with fewer servers – 3200+ servers in 99 locations.

Platforms, interface, and ease of use

SurfsharkPrivate Internet Access
Supported OSWindows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOSWindows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS
Other software and devicesAndroid TVs, Fire devicesAndroid TVs, Fire devices
Browser extensionsChrome, FirefoxChrome, Firefox, Opera
Simultaneous connectionsUnlimited10

Surfshark and PIA cover a variety of platforms, OS, and devices. The coverage these providers offer is pretty much the same. There are no differences when it comes to the supported OS or other software.

Moving to browser extensions, both cover Chrome and Firefox, but PIA gets a slight edge with an extension for Opera. However, Surfshark evens out the result due to the unlimited simultaneous connections it offers, while PIA caps the coverage with 10 simultaneous connections.

So, overall, these providers are equal when it comes to ease of use.

Desktop apps

Sufrshark offers a dedicated app for Linux OS that is both pleasing to use and feature-rich. Its Windows desktop app is the most developed out of all versions. It’s really pleasing and intuitive to use. The main screen displays the grouped categories of features for easier navigation. There’s no map interface for picking the servers, but instead, they are listed with the country’s flag displayed next to them.

Surfshark VPN UI

The macOS version of the Surfshark app is slightly less developed than the Windows one. There are two versions of it, actually, the one you download from Surfshark’s page and Apple’s App Store.

The main difference between them is that the app store version provides WireGuard, IKEv2, and OpenVPN protocols, while the webpage one doesn’t offer the OpenVPN option. Additionally, just like the Windows version, the macOS app doesn’t have a map interface either.

Now PIA’s desktop apps for Windows and macOS are pretty similar. Both versions display a lot of information about your connection, like the protocol, encryption, connection status, and more. Additionally, there’s also no map interface to select your connection.

PIA settings

The main issue encountered was with the Windows app, since it kept crashing randomly, or the system would lag while connecting to a server. There were no such issues with the macOS version.

Additionally, PIA’s Linux app was pretty similar to the other two versions and was rather easy to download and install. Some features may be more difficult to use and understand, but with some practice, it’s not a big challenge to crack.

Mobile apps

The Surfshark offers a great Android app and a slightly less developed iOS version. But that is the most common occurrence with VPN providers.

The android version had all the same features as the Windows one, with the addition of a GPS spoofer. It’s very user-friendly and has a very pleasing interface. The iOS version is practically identical but has no GPS spoofer or Whitelister feature.

Surfshark VPN app on Android

Now PIA’s mobile apps are pretty much identical to the desktop version. While the design is meant to be minimalistic, the abundance of information presented can be slightly overwhelming. Also, mobile apps can be difficult to navigate and understand, since they have random icons without explanations of what they do.

Private Internet Access Android app

No matter between Android or iOS, the apps look practically identical. However, the features are simplified on the mobile version. For example, the Android app allows you to use split tunneling only for specific apps and not websites.

Customer support

SurfsharkPIA
24/7 live chat
Email
Guides or articles
FAQs/Forum

For two premium VPN providers, you expect them to also have great customer support. Luckily these two do live up to the expectations. In need of quick solutions, you can contact the 24/7 live chat support. Surfshark additionally offers email support, while PIA has a ticketing system.

Another shared customer support option is extensive libraries of guides and articles if you wish to work out solutions yourself. To add to that, Surfshark has a useful FAQ page, while PIA has a user forum for discussions and solutions.

However, Surfshark comes out as a winner in this category for a very simple reason – their customer support agents are much quicker and more reliable when it comes to solving issues.

We’ve tested both providers’ customer support response times and success in solving our troubles and in the end, Surfshark agents managed to quickly provide the needed information.

On the other hand, there was a long back and forth with PIA agents, mostly because they struggled to provide accurate information on how to solve the issues encountered and required more and more additional information from our side. Also, there were inconsistencies with the response times.

Wrapping up
While both providers offer a lot of customer support options, Surfshark offers a higher quality of support than PIA and is more effective in solving the troubles.

Surfshark vs Private Internet Access – which one wins?

CategorySurfsharkPIA
Speed
Features
Protection
Streaming
Torrenting
Server locations
Price
Ease of use
Customer support

To conclude this whole comparison, Surfshark is the superior VPN provider to Private Internet Access. When it comes to speed, protection, app features, streaming sites, and even customer support Surfshark was the leading provider. It's a more reliable option and by choosing this VPN you can be certain that you’ll stay anonymous online and your data won’t be used for third parties purposes.

However, PIA did manage to keep up with Surfshark in the cases of torrenting, pricing, and ease of use. It was even the winner of the server category thanks to the astounding X+ servers in X locations. Very few VPNs can challenge those server numbers.

Even so, the competition wasn’t that close, especially when it came to security factors. So it’s not that surprising that Surfshark comes out victorious in this comparison.

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