If you’re trying to choose between Surshark and Private Internet Access (PIA) for your VPN, you’re probably thinking about the cost of both providers, along with their security features and overall performance.
Telling one VPN from another can be a total pain. They all make the same promises while offering the same features – bombarding you with technical jargon and unrealistic sales copy. Surfshark and PIA, sadly, are guilty of both.
So, to save you countless hours jumping between both VPNs trying to figure out which one is better, we’ve created a simple side-by-side comparison. We’ll outline (and explain) every feature, benefit, drawback, and price plan from Surfshark and PIA so you can see exactly which fits your needs.
Surfshark vs. PIA – Which is best?
If you’re in a rush, we recommend Surfshark.
It’s the best budget VPN we’ve tested. It offers unlimited device connections on a single, low-cost plan, and access to 3,000+ speed-optimized servers in 100+ countries that can work with all your favorite streaming sites. Plus, Surfshark is packed with extra privacy tools missing from PIA (and many other more expensive competitors).
While PIA has a much larger server network (20,000+), it’s far less advanced, doesn’t work well with streaming sites, isn’t very easy to use, and performs much more slowly than Surfshark. PIA’s only standout feature is its torrenting capabilities – which outmatch Surfshark.
But, for every use except torrenting, we’ve found Surfshark much more powerful.
Surfshark and PIA boast similar pricing structures, catering to various needs with monthly, yearly, and multi-year plans.
Surfshark’s two-year plan comes with an impressive 83% discount, so it works out at $2.30 per month. PIA also offers a three-year plan (also with an 83% discount) that amounts to $2.03 per month.
However, while PIA is cheaper than Surfshark, Surfshark is much better value. You get unlimited device connections, more advanced security, and faster connections.
Both Surfshark and PIA offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can explore various features, such as connection speeds, server locations, and device compatibility, before committing to a subscription.
Which has better features?
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Both Surfshark and Private Internet Access (PIA) are compatible on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, smart TVs, and routers.
They also offer essential features such as kill-switches, DNS/IPv6 leak protection, and numerous VPN protocols. A kill-switch ensures that no data leaks will occur due to a break in your connection with the VPN by blocking your internet.
Surfshark allows unlimited simultaneous connections, which makes it easy to install the VPN across all your devices on a single subscription – without worrying about data limits or running out of licenses. You can also share it with your family or friends.
PIA supports 10 simultaneous connections, which is still impressive, but Surfshark is the better choice if you plan on using the VPN on a lot of devices.
With Surfshark, you’ll also get extra features like CleanWeb (its built-in ad blocker), Whitelister (its advanced split tunneling tool, which we’ll explain later), dark web monitoring (in case your data is being shared online), and much more.
PIA offers some excellent customizable encryption settings, which advanced users will appreciate.
But overall, Surfshark packs far more advanced features into its VPN offering that will significantly boost your privacy and safety online.
Are routers supported?
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Surfshark is compatible with every kind of home Wi-Fi router, so you can protect all your devices connected to your home network at once.
Installing Surfshark on your devices is very simple. It provides a step-by-step guide that makes it easy to follow the instructions and complete the installation. It only takes a few minutes, and no technical knowledge is required. Some router models and firmware updates might have compatibility issues, so you’ll have to take extra steps.
PIA also supports popular routers like Asus, DD-WRT, and Tomato. It provides a detailed walkthrough on installing the VPN on your router on their website. However, PIA doesn’t recommend router-based configurations because of speed limitations.
What websites do they access?
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Surfshark is among the best streaming VPNs available. It offers fast connection speeds from over 3,200+ servers in 100+ countries. It also has robust security protocols and lots of customizable tools that ensure its compatible with all the major streamers.
It can reliably access over 29 Netflix libraries without any problem. It can also access other streaming platforms like Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Disney Plus, ITV, SkyGo, ABC, NBC, and CBS.
PIA can access most streaming sites, but struggles with some popular ones. We occasionally got Netflix proxy errors using it, which means Netflix was blocking the VPN. It also doesn’t work with ITV in the UK.
So, if your main goal is to expand your streaming horizons without limitations, Surfshark is the clear winner.
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If you want to access Netflix’s vast international content library, you need a VPN that can access many regional libraries. Surfshark excels at this task, accessing Netflix libraries from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and Japan.
Private Internet Access (PIA) focuses mainly on accessing the US Netflix library, which boasts the most extensive content selection. While this is certainly an advantage if you’re interested in American shows and movies, it may fall short if you’re seeking a wider range of international content.
So, if you’re looking for Netflix content from around the world, Surfshark has you covered.
Using PIA and Surfshark in China
If you’re traveling to China and need to access restricted content or apps, using a VPN like Surfshark or PIA can be useful. China’s notorious state firewall prevents you from accessing many of the most popular websites and apps in the world (including social media, email, news, streaming, and entertainment platforms).
Based on our tests and research, Surfshark is much more reliable when it comes to working in China. PIA uses the older, outdated Shadowsocks protocol to beat internet censorship in various countries, but its connections are inconsistent, and it doesn’t reliably work in China.
If you’re visiting mainland China, use Sufshark or another top China VPN.
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Both Surfshark and PIA are reliable VPNs for torrenting and P2P file sharing. They provide dedicated torrenting servers, ensuring fast speeds and secure connections.
They both have strict “no-logs policies” verified by independent auditors. That means neither VPN records your online activities while it’s turned on.
Both Surfshark and PIA include an automatic kill-switch that automatically cuts off your internet connection if the VPN connection is lost for even a second. So there’s no risk of your internet service provider seeing you have a torrenting app running and flagging you.
They’re also compatible with popular torrent clients such as BitTorrent, uTorrent, and qBittorrent, making incorporating them into your torrenting workflows simple.
Surprisingly, even though PIA was initially built for P2P and torrenting (and has a much bigger server network), we found Surfshark faster and more secure when downloading and uploading files via torrenting apps. That’s mostly due to its more advanced features and lightweight apps.
Setup and usability
Surfshark and PIA offer similar setup options across their apps, only taking a few minutes to download, install, and configure.
However, Surfshark is much more beginner-friendly, with simple, modern apps and easy navigation. PIA is better for more advanced users, as it includes a lot of customization and takes some getting used to.
Both VPNs use a list format to navigate between servers in different locations. In both cases, the process is simple and instant.
Additionally, PIA offers an incognito browser, InBrowser, for Android and iOS, which works with the TOR network and deletes browsing data and cookies after you close the browser. Surfshark does not currently offer anything similar.
Even though Surfshark has a lot more features and tools within its apps, it’s surprisingly easier to use than PIA, which is more complicated and better for advanced users who want lots of customizations – especially for torrenting.
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Surfshark’s mobile app has a user-friendly interface, making it the best choice if you’re a beginner. However, PIA’s mobile app offers more advanced features and customization options if you’re an advanced VPN user.
No matter which app you choose, both VPNs provide seamless streaming and torrenting experiences on your mobile device, with the added assurance of kill-switch functionality to safeguard your data.
Both Surfshark and PIA have auto-connect and split tunneling features. Split tunneling allows you to choose which apps use the VPN to connect to the internet, and which stick to your local connection. So, for example, you can access an overseas Netflix channel while still using your local banking and map apps.
Should you encounter any issues or have questions, both Surfshark and PIA provide responsive customer support to help you out.
However, we’re giving this round to Surfshark, because it’s easier to use.
Performance and speed
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PIA exceeds Surfshark with a whopping 35,000+ servers worldwide, spread across 84+ countries. Meanwhile, Surfshark has 3,200+ servers located in 100+ countries.
Keep in mind, though, that a significant portion of PIA’s servers are virtual, making their exact location a bit of a mystery.
If you’re after speed, Surfshark consistently has fast connections across its server network, making it great for streaming, gaming, and torrenting. PIA also performs reliably, but its speeds vary depending on server location and network load.
In our tests, Surfshark clocked a remarkable 323.6 MBps speed when connected to the nearest US server, and it only experienced a minimal speed loss (<10MBps) when connected to a UK server further away.
By comparison, PIA’s speed was slower, with only 117 MBps when connected to the nearest server. However, both VPN providers maintain stable connections and low latency, ensuring smooth real-time online activities.
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Both Surfshark and PIA offer IPv6 and WebRTC leak protection and various VPN protocols, including L2TP/IPSec, IKEv2, OpenVPN, and WireGuard.
You also benefit from 256-bit AES encryption – the same standard used by governments, banks, militaries, and even spy agencies.
Both VPNs include IP address obfuscation tools that hide the fact you’re even using a VPN and add additional layers of secrecy to your online activities. However, PIA relies on the Shadowsocks protocol to achieve this, which is quite old and slow. In contrast, Surfshark has built its own proprietary obfuscation tools, Camouflage Mode and NoBorders Mode, which work much better.
They also both use self-hosted DNS servers to run their networks, rather than relying on third parties like Google. So, there’s very little risk of your data being exposed due to external forces.
However, as we’ve demonstrated through this review, Surfshark has much more advanced features than PIA – and that’s true when it comes to security, too. Its built-in, custom-made security tools work much more effectively than PIA, while still delivering better connection speeds.
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The first thing to note is where both VPNs are located: Surfshark’s HQ is in the British Virgin Islands, one of the most privacy-friendly places on earth. In contrast, PIA is located in the USA, one of the least privacy-friendly places on earth, and a founding member of the Five Eyes and 14 Eyes global surveillance alliances.
While we trust PIA’s commitment to privacy and safeguarding your data, we’re still much more comfortable using a VPN located far away from the US government.
Otherwise, both VPNs offer the standard privacy policies we expect from every provider. They adhere to strict “no-logs” policies, so they never store or share your data. This means they can never be coerced into sharing it, either. Both use RAM-only, diskless servers that are automatically wiped regularly, so no residual data is left lingering in their networks.
Once again, Surfshark goes above and beyond by offering additional privacy features like MultiHop, which routes your traffic through two VPN servers for an added layer of security. Even though it can slightly affect your speed, it still works well.
PIA, on the other hand, offers advanced options such as customizable encryption settings. However, these will only appeal to advanced users and should be adjusted with caution.
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You can count on both Surfshark and PIA for 24/7 customer support, available through live chat, support ticketing, and email.
While both providers offer round-the-clock live chat, Surfshark has a slight edge in response time, particularly during evening hours. Their comprehensive knowledge bases cater to your needs, and Surfshark excels in answering common questions.
PIA stands out with detailed guides, complete with screenshots and step-by-step walkthroughs for various issues. If you encounter more complex inquiries, rest assured that both providers’ ticketing and email support systems typically respond within the same day.
Methodology: how we compare VPNs
We used a series of rigorous tests when reviewing Surfshark and PIA – the same tests we use on every VPN.
If you’re trying to decide the best VPN for you, our criteria and metrics will help you make an informed, impartial decision. Here’s a quick sample of what we look at in each VPN:
Security: Including military-grade encryption, advanced leak protections, and numerous VPN protocols. Server network: Thousands of secure, speed-optimized servers located in countries across the globe. Access to content: Compatible with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and every other popular streaming site. Transparency: The VPN never collects or shares your data with any third parties. Ease of use: Apps are simple to install, set up, and navigate on every device. Value: Simple, affordable plans with at least 30-day money-back guarantees.
To get the full breakdown of every test we conduct, read our VPN review process.
Surfshark easily outperforms PIA in almost every aspect.
While its server network is much smaller (3,000+ vs 20,000+), Surfshark’s network is spread across 100+ countries, providing faster speeds and better connectivity anywhere in the world.
With Surfshark, you also get better access to the most popular streaming sites, industry-best security and privacy tools, easy-to-use apps, and – best of all – unlimited device connections.
So, while they cost roughly the same, Sufshark packs exponentially more value and performance than PIA. Also, it works in China (just in case you have a holiday planned).
Make the most of Surfshark’s 30-day money-back guarantee to see for yourself, risk-free.
Or take a look at our other head-to-head reviews of the top VPNs available: