Surfshark vs PIA VPN: Comparison 2023
In this Surfshark vs PIA VPN comparison, we’ll compare the two services side-by-side and help you make an informed decision. If VPN affordability is a concern, you will edge toward Private Internet Access or Surfshark. Despite this, you have to choose the best VPN that fits your needs better.
Surfshark and PIA VPN are two popular VPNs in the industry. Where Surfshark represents a new breed of VPNs , Private Internet Access VPN has been around for quite some time. Despite sitting on the lower end of pricing, both VPN services vary in terms of their capabilities.
I’ll dissect each VPN’s streaming, torrenting, gaming, and other capabilities to help you pick PIA or Surfshark . You can even check out our quick VPN comparison tool to get a clearer perspective. But if you’re interested to know the strengths and weaknesses in detail, read on!
Surfshark vs PIA VPN: Quick Overview 2023
Both PIA and Surfshark ensure protection with an efficient kill switch and split tunneling feature. However, PIA only offers the split tunneling feature on the macOS and Windows apps while Surfshark’s Bypasser works only on Windows and Android devices only.
Besides these differences, here’s a quick overview of the PIA vs Surfshark comparison:
|Factors||Surfshark||Private Internet Access|
|Servers||3200 servers 65 countries||Multiple servers in 84|
|Pricing||US$ 2.49 /mo (Get 84% + 2 Months FREE on 2-Year Plan)||US$ 2.03 /mo 65% OFF|
|Additional Features||Surfshark One (VPN, Antivirus, Search, Alert)||DNS leak test, email leak test, IPv6 leak test|
|Encryption||AES-256 algorithms||128-bit or 256-bit encryption ciphers|
|No Logs Policy||Strict no logs policy||Strict 100% no-usage-logs policy|
|Kill Switch||KillSwitch (soft and hard KillSwitch)||Available|
|Split Tunneling||Available (Bypasser)||Available (macOS and Windows only)|
|VPN Protocols||WireGuard and OpenVPN UDP/TCP protocols (routers and manual connection), L2TP protocol for routers||WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IPSec (on iOS)|
|Compatible Devices||Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, Chrome, and Firefox, Xbox and PlayStation gaming consoles, Fire TV and Apple TV||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, Android TV, iOS, browser extensions like Chrome and Opera, and routers|
|Dedicated IP||No||Yes (Available as add-on)|
|Coupons||Save 81% on the 24-Month Plan||Save 83% on the 3-Year + 3-Month Free Plan|
|Free Trial||Free trial on either Apple App Store or Google Play Store (once you get the 7-day free trial there, you can use it on other devices as well)||7-day free trial on Android and iOS apps|
|Money-Back Guarantee||30 days||30 days|
|Accepted Payment Methods||PayPal, Credit Card, Sofort, Google Pay, Amazon Pay & crypto||Credit Card, PayPal, Amazon, Google Play (through our Android app only), Apple/iTunes|
|Streaming Capabilities||Amazon Prime, Hotstar, Netflix, Telequebec, ICI, Hayu, Noovo, RD, JOYN, ZDF, TVNow, ITV, Sky Go, BTTV, NowTV, Britbox, ESPN, Peacock, SpectrumTV, MTV, Discovery+||Amazon Prime, YouTube TV US, Disney+ US, Hulu US, HBO Max US, Crunchyroll US, CBC US, Eurosport US, HBO Now US, BBC iPlayer UK, ITV, HBO Nordic, DRTV, FranceTV, Canal+, M6, ZDF, ARD, Disney+ Hotstar, RaiPlay, Disney+ Italy, YLE, Ruutu, C More, MTV Finland, HBO Nordics Finland, Cmore.se, HBO Nordic Sweden, TV4Play.se, YouTube Sweden|
|Netflix Libraries||US, Canada, Brazil, UK, France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Japan, South Korea, and Australia||US, UK, France, Germany, Sweden, Japan|
|Supported OS||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS devices as well as Firestick and AndroidBox||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, with browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera|
|Customer Support||Tutorials, 24/7 support via live chats or emails||Guides, 24/7 support via live chats or emails|
Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Which is the Best One in 2023? 13 Factors!
I concluded that Surfshark is better than PIA VPN on the following factors:
- Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Prices and Discounts
- Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Important Features Comparison
- Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Netflix & Unblocking Other Streaming Capabilities
- Surfshark vs PIA VPN – China & Internet Restricted Countries
- Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Setup and User Interface
- Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Servers and Performance
- Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Security
- Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Logging and Privacy
- Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Configuration
- Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Customer Service
- Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Torrenting
- Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Gaming
- Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Device Compatibility
1. Surfshark vs PIA VPN Prices and Discounts
PIA and Surfshark are both budget-friendly VPN services that offer good value for lesser money. To start off, you have three tiers in subscriptions.
|Subscription Period||1 Month||1 Month|
|1 Year||1 Year|
|2 Years||3 Year|
|Special offer||81% Off on a 24-Month Plan||83% Off on the 3-Year + 3-Month Plan|
|Highest price per month||$12.95||$11.95|
|Lowest price per month||$2.49||$2.03|
|Money-Back Guarantee||30 Days||30 Days|
Get This Best Deal for Surfshark : Save 81% on the 2-Year Special
Get This Best Deal for PIA : Get 83% Off on a 3-Year Plan+3 Months Free
Mode of Payment
In terms of payment methods, both VPNs accept common payment methods. Here’s a quick rundown on the payment methods accepted by PIA and Surfshark :
If a VPN offers multiple modes of payment, you have the freedom to select a payment method and pay for your subscription without any hassle.
Money Back Guarantee
Both Surfshark and PIA have the same refund period of 30 days. Besides the money-back guarantee, Surfshark and PIA VPN also offer their subscribers a 7-day free trial on the Android and iOS apps.
Winner in Prices and Discounts
Despite both services offering pocket-friendly subscription packages, PIA has an edge over Surfshark because its plans are cheaper .
2. Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Important Features Comparison
|Operating System Apps||Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Amazon Fire TV||Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux|
|Manual Install Devices||Set-Top Boxes, Routers, and Linux||Some Routers|
|Free Extras||Alert, NoBorders Mode, TrustDNS||SOCKS5 Proxy and ad/tracker blocker|
|Kill Switch||Available (Soft and Hard Kill Switch)||Available|
|Obfuscated Servers||Available (UDP or TCP protocols)||Available (JP Tokyo, US West, US Texas, US Seattle, US East, CA Vancouver, Netherlands, UK London, UK Manchester, Netherlands, Switzerland, Israel)|
Both Surfshark and PIA offer great functionality on multiple devices . With each provider, you have native apps for all popular platforms/devices including Windows, Mac , iOS , Android , Fire TVs , and Linux . Moreover, you even get browser extensions for Google Chrome , Opera, and Mozilla Firefox with PIA. Surfshark offers browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge.
With Surfshark, you can even take help from the extensive tutorials for VPN-incompatible devices like Apple TV . Not to mention, you can even find apps that work with Xbox One , and Nintendo Switch, which is quite helpful, to say the least for the gamer audience. For a lot of gamers, it’s extremely important to find the best gaming VPNs, and Surfshark ticks the boxes.
Private Internet Access Chrome extension works for browsing securely as well. As far as simultaneous connections are concerned, PIA offers the ability to establish 10 multi-logins, whereas Surfshark goes the extra mile with unlimited connections.
Features like Hacklock for identity theft protection, and NoBorders mode for accessing obfuscated servers make it one of the most secure VPNs. PIA, on the other hand, does not offer much in the way of features.
Winner in Features Comparison
Without a doubt, Surfshark is the winner because it is backed by advanced features that PIA lacks .
3. Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Netflix & Unblocking Other Streaming Capabilities
The best streaming VPNs guarantee excellent download speeds to ensure buffer-free streaming and consistent unblocking potential. Speed is secondary because first, the VPN has to unblock the service for its users .
I faced no downtime issues with the provider, streaming was smooth even on Ultra HD quality, and I did not get the “proxy/VPN detected error” on all the above websites. Moreover, using BBC iPlayer with Surfshark also enables you to watch docu-series abroad that are only accessible to UK residents.
In terms of unblocking, I received exceptional capabilities from Surfshark and it clearly landed on my list for the VPNs to beat Netflix ban . However, PIA couldn’t bypass geo-restrictions on most libraries. As such, it may not be the best option for unblocking.
Private Internet Access only unblocked Netflix US, UK, France, Germany, Sweden, and Japan. Even while testing, these libraries got unblocked after several attempts .
Winner in Netflix & Unblocking Other Streaming Capabilities
surfshark vs private internet access
Surfshark did a better job for unblocking Netflix and other streaming services in the first attempt.
4. Surfshark vs PIA VPN – China & Internet Restricted Countries
Internet-restricted countries like China and Russia are hard to get into. Therefore, users are always on the lookout for the best China VPNs. “The Great Firewall” adopts various technologies like blackholing VPN services, DNS poisoning, DNS hijacking, and IP filtering, which make it difficult to access local Chinese content from elsewhere in the world.
Where PIA failed at providing any incentives for either audience, Surfshark tends to be quite impressive; particularly for those residing in the country.
It offers a Chinese mirror website that allows individuals to download/install their apps. At the same time, it offers a “NoBorders” mode. Obfuscation is an excellent feature to bypass VPN blocks.
However, there is no support for those looking to buy a VPN into China with dedicated Chinese servers.
Users in China can download Surfshark from their dedicated Chinese page here: https://shark-cn.com/
Winner in Working for China & Internet Restricted Countries
Private Internet Access does not work for China as the country aggressively blocks VPNs within the region. Even Surfshark works inconsistently in China but between the two, Surfshark is a better option.
5. Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Setup and User Interface
|Automatic Setup Wizard||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS||Windows, Mac, Android, iOS|
|Main Location Selection||List-based||List-based|
|Extra Settings Pages||Yes||Yes|
Ideally, a VPN should not make it difficult to use its features. Both Surfshark and PIA , are intuitive and user-friendly with an easy-to-understand interface. Both have desktop apps with clearly labeled features, so you can easily navigate your way around the app.
You can scroll through different server locations and easily connect to a country on Surfshark, even if you’re new to using VPNs. For configurations, simply click on the “gear” icon. It will give you options for altering the protocols and encryption, along with other app functions.
Mobile apps are just as user-friendly and boast the same design and appearance but are optimized for a smaller screen.
PIA’s apps, on the other hand, boast a broader appearance and design that does require some work in the overall UI, as it gets quite complicated.
On the desktop, the app hides itself the second you hit the minimize button. This means you have to constantly reopen the app every time you want to do something.
This can become quite infuriating for those trying to follow the steps in a configuration/setup guide. Of course, techy individuals will have no problem with the task.
Mobile apps are nicely designed though and tend to be clutter-free. All options are listed neatly and connecting takes barely a few seconds, which is quite remarkable.
Besides that, altering settings on Surfshark and PIA is extremely easy . Every setting is properly placed within the app, and only requires toggling a button to change features like the kill switch, split tunnel, or even different VPN protocols.
Winner in Setup and User Interface
It’s a tie because both VPNs are easy to install and set up on various devices. Even if you are a total beginner, you can use VPN apps because of their simple UI.
6. Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Servers and Performance
Both Surfshark and PIA offer a good network infrastructure. The former boasts 3200 servers in 65 countries, whereas PIA supports servers in 84 countries.
PIA does not disclose its server count due to security reasons. Surfshark is constantly adding to its server network and has competent servers without any performance issues .
|Download||88 Mbps||75 Mbps|
|Upload||79 Mbps||66.8 Mbps|
|Download||85 Mbps||72.4 Mbps|
|Upload||76.2 Mbps||65 Mbps|
|Download||88 Mbps||70.2 Mbps|
|Upload||82.2 Mbps||69.3 Mbps|
To get a better idea about the performance, I conducted a speed analysis on both: PIA and Surfshark . This required testing 3 different servers from each provider.
The countries selected were USA, UK, and Canada. All tests were performed on my 100 Mbps connection to get the best results.
In bare speed tests, Surfshark managed to deliver an average of 88 Mbps in uploads and downloads, indicating a speed loss of 12%.
PIA, on the other hand, had a higher loss touching the 25% mark in speed reduction, recording an average speed of 75 Mbps.
Winner in Servers, Performance, and Speed
Private Internet Access vs Surfshark comparison in this round suggests that Surfshark is the winner. Although PIA offers servers in more countries than Surfshark, they are still not as reliable as Surfshark’s servers. Therefore, the point goes to Surfshark here.
7. Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Security
|VPN Protocols||L2TP, IPSec, IKEv2, OpenVPN||PPTP, L2TP, IPSec, IKEv2, OpenVPN|
|OpenVPN Data Encryption||AES-256||AES-128, AES-256|
|OpenVPN Control Channel Encryption||RSA-2048||RSA-4096|
|App Security||Kill Switch, Wi-Fi, DNS/WebRTC/IP Leak Protection||Kill Switch and DNS/WebRTC/IP Leak Protection|
|DNS Status||TrustDNS||Private DNS|
Users can switch between different protocols on Surfshark. However, Protocol is set to Automatic by default which chooses the fastest and most stable VPN protocol .
For encryption, it utilizes AES-256-GCM ciphers so no additional authentication is provided on the data channel.
For the control channel, Surfshark uses an AES-256-GCM cipher with the TLS key exchange secured using RSA-2048. Perfect forward secrecy is provided by ECDH-(384?) key exchange.
PIA, on the other hand, supports the same number of protocols. As a default, it also uses OpenVPN across all devices with the exception of iOS and macOS which uses the IKEv2 protocol. PIA lets you decrease the packet size to ensure an optimal VPN connection.
For the control channel, PIA uses the same ciphers and hash authentication, with the inclusion of SHA384 for authentication. Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFE) is available via ECDHE+ECDSA.
To ensure you receive strong security from both providers, I conducted a leak test . This process involved using 6 varied tools for WebRTC/DNS/IP address detection:
WebRTC and HTTP Request Leaks:
IPv4/IPv6 and Torrent IP Leaks:
Unsurprisingly, both PIA and Surfshark passed the tests with flying colors, anonymizing all crucial personally identifiable information, and keeping you protected 24/7!
Winner in Security
Surfshark vs Private Internet Access comparison suggests that Surfshark is a more secure VPN. Although PIA VPN comes close to Surfshark in terms of security, Surfshark is still the winner . You get multi-hop features with both VPNs but the functionality differs.
For instance, Surfshark’s multi-hop feature routes your traffic through two different VPN servers, and PIA routes your VPN traffic through a proxy server.
Additionally, Surfshark has a unique NoBorders mode that lets you use obfuscation technology and access content in internet-restricted countries.
8. Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Logging and Privacy
|Connection Logs||Logs some data||Log some data|
|Activity Logs||Logs some data||None|
|Sign Up Information||Email Address||Email Address|
|Anonymous Payment Methods||Monero, Dash, Gridcoin, Ripple, ZCaas, Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin||Multiple Cryptocurrencies|
Based in the Netherlands, Surfshark gains an edge over other providers. PIA, on the other hand, has its headquarters in the United States, and is a founding member of the Five/Nine/Fourteen Eyes Alliances.
Therefore, it indulges in intelligence sharing and imposes mandatory data retention laws that must be followed by telecom, internet, and VPN providers as well.
At any time, the government can issue a gag order accompanied by a subpoena that makes it necessary to cooperate with any log requests.
Surfshark does store connection timestamps and user ID when you connect to a VPN server. However, it erases the stored information after every 15 minutes. PIA stores your payment information and email address to keep the service running properly. Despite the minor logs, neither Surfshark nor PIA have ever been involved in their users’ security breaches before.
Solid VPN protocols and military-grade encryption standards add to these VPNs’ credibility as secure VPN providers .
Winner in Logging and Privacy
Private Internet Access vs Surfshark competition in this round hints towards a tie. Considering all factors, both VPNs get points for this round.
9. Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Configuration
|Address Allocation||Shared||Shared/Dedicated (add-on)|
Where Surfshark adopts a shared network infrastructure, Private Internet Access (PIA) follows a shared address allocation structure.
This is quite problematic, considering that static IPs are necessary for accessing sensitive banking information or accessing home LANs in different countries. Private Internet Access VPN offers dedicated IP addresses at an additional cost of $5/mo.
Winner in Configuration
Dedicated IPs are great for improving site speed and security, which means you have lesser chances of getting your IP address blocked. Private Internet Access VPN is the undisputed winner in terms of configuration.
10. Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Customer Service
|Searchable Knowledge Base||Yes||Yes|
|Average Email Response Time||25 Minutes||45 Minutes|
|Live Chat Support||Yes||Yes|
With either provider, you have multiple options for support. These include ticket support, email, and live chat, along with a searchable knowledgebase and FAQs section.
All options work quite well and the response times on either VPN live chat is quite impressive. It took only a few seconds to get answers to technical queries. Besides that, you can also cancel the Surfshark subscription by reaching their support team.
I even conducted a test on the response times from each provider on email support. The process included sending both providers four questions via email. See the statics for each VPN below:
Surfshark Customer Service
|Question||Initial Response Time||Number of Emails||Question Answered|
|Does Surfshark work with Netflix?||20 Minutes||1||Yes|
|Is Surfshark good for Torrenting?||25 Minutes||1||Yes|
|Does Surfshark work in China?||30 Minutes||1||Yes|
|How to activate obfuscation?||20 Minutes||1||Yes|
Private Internet Access (PIA) Customer Service
|Question||Initial Response Time||Number of Emails||Question Answered|
|Why is PIA located in a Five Eyes Country?||1 Hour||1||Yes|
|Does Private Internet Access keep logs?||45 Minutes||1||Yes|
|Does private Internet access work with Netflix?||50 Minutes||1||Yes|
|How do I get a refund from private Internet Access?||44 Minutes||1||Yes|
Winner in Customer Support
Surfshark is the clear winner in this round, thanks to its exceptional customer support representatives that are knowledgeable and prompt with their responses.
11. Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Torrenting
The best torrenting VPNs have blazing-fast speeds and exceptional security. To test their torrenting speeds, I downloaded a test file of 1GB on a 3Mbps internet connection. Neither Surfshark nor PIA VPN offers the best torrenting speeds, but still, Surfshark displayed consistently better speeds.
Given PIA’s inconsistent speeds, I expected it to falter in my rigorous torrenting tests. But to my surprise, the VPN offered decent torrenting speeds . However, it still took 90 minutes to finish the torrent download using PIA, as compared to Surfshark that only took 60 minutes.
|P2P Servers & Locations||All servers||Multiple P2P servers in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany (Berlin, Frankfurt), Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland (Warsaw), Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, UK, and US|
|Average Torrenting Speeds||62.3 Mbps||75 Mbps|
Winner in Torrenting
Surfshark takes the point in the torrenting round . Although PIA’s support agent confirmed that all their servers are P2P-optimized, Surfshark delivered better speeds.
12. Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Gaming
Although VPNs slow down your connection, the best gaming VPNs ensure that the impact on download and upload speed is as minimal as possible. Both Surfshark and Private Internet Access VPN do not differ their servers by category, so you’ll not find gaming-optimized servers on both VPN.
However, I had an interruption-free gaming experience by connecting to the server closest to my location on Surfshark. On the other hand, Private Internet Access VPN is not a reliable option for gaming online .
Considering Surfshark’s better global server performance with consistent download speeds, Surfshark only loses 12% of its speed whereas PIA VPN loses 25% of the speed.
Low ping rates ensure a better gaming experience. With PIA VPN, I recorded a ping of 50ms on all the servers I tested. But, Surfshark performed exceptionally well and maintained a low ping rate on most server locations.
|Without a VPN||PIA||Surfshark|
|Call of Duty: Warzone||35ms||76ms||31ms|
Winner in Gaming
PIA VPN vs Surfshark comparison for gaming has Surfshark as the obvious winner with minimal fluctuations. It is much more consistent than Private Internet Access, which gave a higher ping.
13. Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Device Compatibility
Surfshark and Private Internet Access VPN are compatible with popular OSes and devices. However, here’s a quick look at the device compatibility of each VPN:
|Samsung Smart TV||No||Yes|
|LG Smart TV||No||Yes|
|Android Smart TV||No||Yes|
|Routers||Some routers||Needs manual installation|
Winner in Device Compatibility
In this PIA vs Surfshark comparison , Surfshark is the winner because it is compatible with more devices. In addition, Surfshark lets you protect all your devices simultaneously which is another plus point.
Surfshark vs PIA VPN – FAQs
What should I keep in mind when deciding between Private Internet Access and Surfshark ?
When choosing between Surfshark and Private Internet Access , you should consider the server network, overall connection speeds, subscription packages, and the number of simultaneous connections allowed by the VPN.
If you’re ready to buy a VPN, then Surfshark is a better option because of its exceptional performance in my tests.
What VPN is better than PIA ?
Surfshark is better than PIA for streaming and gaming . It has faster connection speeds and consistently unblocks 11 Netflix libraries, whereas PIA can only unblock 6 Netflix libraries. Surfshark has more compatible servers, so you don’t have to switch between servers to find one that works.
Is Surfshark VPN the best ?
Yes, Surfshark is often recognized as one of the best VPNs by industry experts because of its military-grade encryption standards and exceptional applications.
Is Surfshark better than PIA ?
Yes, Surfshark is certainly better than PIA in terms of speed, torrenting, streaming, and customer support. On the other hand, PIA outmatched Surfshark in subscription packages. The end decision is always in your hands, which depends on your needs for VPN usage.
What’s better than Surfshark ?
In terms of speed, NordVPN is faster than Surfshark because it uses the NordLynx protocol. However, you can expect similar speeds with NordVPN and Surfshark on the IKEv2 and OpenVPN protocols.
Is Surfshark faster than PIA ?
Yes, Surfshark is much faster than PIA . Based in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction, Surfshark ensures faster streaming speeds and advanced features. However, your needs as a user determine which VPN provides more value to you.
Do Surfshark or Private Internet Access have any deals ?
Yes, Surfshark and PIA offer deals on different occasions . You can check out the current subscription plans and discounts above.
Surfshark vs PIA VPN – Wrapping Up
Now that you have made it to the end of our detailed comparison of Surfshark vs PIA VPN , you are probably not questioning: Is Surfshark better than PIA ? Undoubtedly, Surfshark wins this comparison, due to being better at unblocking streaming platforms, and working in China, all while being incredibly budget-friendly.
PIA is a good service too, but there are improvements required in several areas. Not to mention, the provider is based in a risky jurisdiction, which eliminates the whole purpose of leveraging privacy!