There's a sign with two arrows on it; one arrow points to the right and reads "Surfshark", and the other points to the left and reads "Private internet Access."

It’s Surfshark vs. Private Internet Access. We’ll delve deep and see what makes each provider tick. From added features, server speeds, and privacy settings to leading protocols, subscription costs, and customer support — it’s time to see who takes the 2024 title.

Note: the comparison was made on June 2, 2023, and updated in April 2024.

Table of contents

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    Take care of your online activities & device security
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    Feature Element
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    Surfshark vs. PIA: summary

    Both Surfshark and PIA offer a premium VPN experience. PIA offers 10 simultaneous connections, while Surfshark doesn’t limit them at all. Surfshark also has servers in more countries and more additional features, while PIA is the slightly cheaper option, although you need to get a 3-year plan for the best price.

    Surfshark
    PIA
    Devices
    Unlimited
    10
    Server countries
    100
    86
    Protocols
    OpenVPN, WireGuard
    WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2, IPSec
    Cookie pop-up blocker
    check
    uncheck
    Ad blocker
    check
    check
    Independent audit
    check
    check
    10Gbps servers
    check*
    check
    24/7 support
    check
    check
    Best subscription cost
    $2.19 monthly
    $1.75 monthly
    Money-back guarantee
    30 days
    30 days
    Top products/features
    VPN, Search, Alert, Ad blocker, Cookie pop-up blocker, Antivirus, Dedicated IP
    VPN, Adblock, Antivirus, Dedicated IP address
    Desktop/mobile compatibility
    Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, Apple iOS, Chrome, Firefox, consoles, smart TV, FireTV, Edge
    Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, Apple iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Consoles, smart TV
    Payment methods
    17+ including crypto
    17+ including crypto
    Free trial (available via the App Store and Google Play)
    7 days
    7 days

    *Available in specific locations only.

    Disclaimer: The displayed pricing and server details in this article are correct as of March 2024 and are subject to change.

    Speed 

    We tested each platform using the WireGuard and OpenVPN protocols and measured our results in Mbps (megabits per second). Here’s what we found.

    Note: the speed test results are the average for each provider.

    Surfshark vs. PIA speed test results (WireGuard)

    Fastest protocol
    Surfshark (WireGuard)
    PIA (WireGuard)
    Download average
    278 Mbps
    167 Mbps
    Upload average
    183 Mbps
    112.3 Mbps

    Surfshark vs. PIA speed test results (OpenVPN)

    VPN service
    Surfshark (OpenVPN)
    PIA (OpenVPN)
    Download average
    125.6 Mbps
    109.7 Mbps
    Upload average
    136.8 Mbps
    125.4 Mbps

    While the above metrics were displayed for me, you may see different results. Remember, a number of factors can affect your internet speed — your region, internet provider, Wi-Fi, operating system, and physical proximity to the server you’re connecting to.

    Key takeaway: While the PIA speed test produced good results, Surfshark performed consistently better on both WireGuard and OpenVPN protocols.

    Features

    Let’s unpack some additional features designed to enhance your online experience.

    Feature
    Surfshark
    PIA
    Ad blocker
    CleanWeb
    PIA MACE
    Antivirus
    Surfshark Antivirus
    Antivirus by PIA
    Double VPN
    Dynamic MultiHop
    Multi-Hop
    Split tunneling
    Bypasser
    Configurable Split Tunneling
    Search capability
    Surfshark Search
    uncheck
    GPS spoofing
    GPS Override
    uncheck
    Cookie pop-up blocker
    check
    uncheck
    Browser extensions
    check
    check
    User masking
    Alternative ID
    uncheck
    Alert
    Surfshark Alert
    Identity Guard

    Ad blockers

    Surfshark’s CleanWeb ad blocker prevents malicious ads, pop-ups, and trackers. The feature is included in all subscriptions.

    PIA’s MACE feature provides a similar service by blocking ads, trackers, and malicious websites. The feature is part of a monthly subscription.

    User masking

    Surfshark offers a tool to mask the user’s real identity and help reduce the potential for spam — Alternative ID. It generates an online persona with a name, age, address, and email. These details can be used for various online registrations. Alternative ID comes with every subscription plan.

    PIA doesn’t offer a similar feature.

    Antivirus

    Surfshark’s Antivirus app will give you real-time online protection by scanning all files that are downloaded onto your device. This ensures that threats are detected in real time, safeguarding your system from malicious software. Additionally, while there are critical files and folders on your device that you, as a user, can’t access to maintain your operating system’s stability, these areas can still be vulnerable to virus infections. Surfshark Antivirus scans these as well.

    PIA also has an antivirus that will scan your PC and protect your device from malware.

    Double VPN

    Both VPN providers have Double VPN and coincidentally call it MultiHop.

    This feature hides your online activity by routing your traffic through two different VPN servers instead of one. With a double VPN, your online traffic is encrypted twice, giving you an added layer of protection.

    Also, Surfshark’s Dynamic MultiHop lets you manually select the servers through which you want your traffic to be routed.

    However, once enabled, this feature can slightly slow down your connection. It is most beneficial for political activists, journalists, or other people who need the added privacy.

    Split tunneling

    Both platforms have a built-in split tunneling feature, which allows you to choose which apps you’d like to encrypt. Split tunneling protects sensitive information by dividing your network traffic into two separate connections, giving two IP addresses to your data traffic.

    For example, split tunneling is useful when you need to access a banking app while connected to a VPN. Exclude a website or an app from the VPN tunnel, and they’ll always be available.

    You can use split tunneling on both PIA’s and Surshark’s desktop and mobile apps (note: Surshark’s feature is called Bypasser).

    Search capability

    Surfshark has a built-in private web browsing tool where you can get organic search results specific to your region. Surfshark Search doesn’t track your activity and doesn’t show ads.

    Currently, PIA doesn’t have its own search tool.

    GPS override 

    Using GPS Override, or GPS spoofing, will make your device appear in a different location or time zone. This means you can retain your online privacy, and your personal data isn’t tracked. Only available on Surfshark’s Android app.

    At this time, PIA doesn’t offer GPS spoofing. 

    Cookie pop-up blocker

    Surfshark’s cookie pop-up blocker removes cookie pop-ups, meaning you won’t deal with annoying banners and consent requests when browsing online.

    PIA doesn’t have such a feature at the moment.

    Alerts and notifications

    A hand holds a warning alarm light; behind it is an application screen reading Data breach

    PIA’s Identity Guard tool allows you to check if your email addresses have been compromised in a data breach. However, it won’t alert you to suspicious activity in real time.

    Surfshark, on the other hand, actively monitors your personal information with Surfshark Alert and notifies you in real time if your email address, banking details, password, or any other sensitive information has been breached.

    Stay safe with an all-in-one cybersecurity solution
    VPN, Antivirus, Search, and Alert in a single subscription
    Surfshark

    Privacy and security 

    Brace yourself as we tackle privacy and security. Jargon takes over, descriptions get tricky, and your eyes may start to glaze over. But never fear! We’ll make it easy for you to follow.

    Below is a list of the privacy and security features available at Surfshark and PIA.

    Surfshark
    PIA
    VPN protocols
    OpenVPN, WireGuard
    WireGuard, OpenVPN, IPSec
    OpenVPN data encryption
    AES-256
    AES-256
    Cloaking technology
    Camouflage mode
    ShadowSOCKS protocol
    App security
    Kill Switch
    Kill Switch
    DNS status
    Private DNS
    Private DNS

    Encryption

    Both VPN apps use the AES-256 VPN encryption standard, paired with RSA 2048 encryption keys. AES-256 splits incoming data into blocks and applies different cryptographic keys for each protocol.

    In easier words, it’s virtually impossible to hack your data using brute-force methods. With current computing technology, AES-256 would take a lifetime to hack.

    Surfshark and PIA use WireGuard and OpenVPN for authorization, authentication, and encryption. Both are industry-leading, open-source protocols known for their breakneck download speeds, stable connections, and advanced data security.

    For mobile, PIA offers IPsec (for iOS), while Surfshark uses IKEv2.

    Cloaking technology

    Surfshark and PIA have cloaking features to hide your digital footprint. Surfshark has a built-in obfuscation tool (called Camouflage mode) that masks the fact that you’re using a VPN, making your connection appear as regular internet traffic. It is particularly useful in regions with restrictive internet laws.

    PIA has its own obfuscation protocol (ShadowSOCKS), which also disguises your VPN traffic as normal activity and conceals all metadata.

    Surfshark also goes a step further with its NoBorders mode. This feature lets you browse in restricted regions and avoid government censorship.

    Smart DNS

    SmartDNS technology routes Domain Name Server (DNS) requests through a server in a different country to mask your location. This is useful for smart TVs and gaming consoles that don’t support VPNs.

    You can activate SmartDNS for Surfshark through your account dashboard, while SmartDNS for PIA will need to be set up through the site’s client control panel.

    Kill switch

    Each VPN has its own kill switch — a feature that will disconnect you from the internet if your VPN connection suddenly drops. A kill switch ensures your privacy is always protected and your data is never compromised.

    PIA vs. Surfshark VPN: audits

    The best way to find out if you’re dealing with a reputable VPN service is through an independent audit.

    What is a VPN security audit? It’s a comprehensive security evaluation performed by an independent firm to analyze a company’s operations, including onsite security, privacy, data policies, and similar.

    PIA audit

    In 2022, PIA’s internal server infrastructure was audited by Deloitte. One of the Big Four auditing companies found that PIA didn’t log any details that could be used to identify their users or pinpoint their activities.

    Surfshark audit

    In 2018, Surfshark was independently audited by Cure53. The company found that Surfshark’s browser extensions had no serious flaws and that all security protocols were up to global standards. Surfshark addressed any recommendations and published the results.

    In 2021, Cure53 audited Surfshark’s entire VPN infrastructure. Again, no serious issues were discovered, and all recommendations were addressed. 

    In 2023, Surfshark’s no-activity-logs statement was verified by Deloitte — even more evidence of Surfshark sticking to its privacy policy and promises.

    Pricing and plans 

    How much is Surfshark VPN compared to PIA? Straight off the bat, you’ll see that both products are two of the most affordable VPN services on the market, with PIA just nudging ahead.

    Pricing

    PIA offers slightly cheaper 1-month and 1-year plans, but if you want to get the best pricing, you have to commit to the service for 3 years. Surfshark’s cheapest option costs $2.19/month but only requires you to subscribe for 2 years.

    Plan
    Surfshark
    PIA
    One-month subscription
    $15.45 monthly
    $11.95 monthly
    12-month subscription
    $3.49 monthly
    $3.33 per month
    24-month subscription
    $2.19 monthly
    N/A
    36-month subscription
    N/A
    $1.98 monthly

    Disclaimer: Monthly subscription costs may vary depending on the currency, VAT requirements, and discount coupons.

    Payment methods

    Both Surfshark and PIA offer quick, safe, and reliable banking methods, including credit/debit cards, e-wallets, and some leading cryptocurrencies. Depending on the method, payment processing can take anywhere from an hour to a day, and you’ll get an email confirmation as soon as your service is active.

    Surshark has 17+ banking methods, including 8+ cryptocurrencies. Both sites work with well-respected crypto payment platforms like CoinGate and CoinPayments (for Surfshark) and BitPay (for PIA).

    Payment method
    Surfshark
    PIA
    Visa
    check
    check
    Mastercard
    check
    check
    AMEX
    check
    check
    Discover Card
    check
    check
    American Express (AMEX)
    check
    check
    PayPal
    check
    check
    Amazon Pay
    check
    check
    GooglePay
    check
    check
    ACH
    check
    uncheck
    Bitcoin (BTC)
    check
    check
    Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
    check
    check
    Ethereum (ETH)
    check
    check
    TRON (TRX)
    check
    uncheck
    Tether (USDT)
    check
    check
    Litecoin (LTC)
    uncheck
    check
    Dai (DAI)
    check
    uncheck
    Nano (XNO)
    check
    uncheck
    BitTorrent token (BTT)
    check
    uncheck
    Travala.com (AVA)
    check
    uncheck
    BitPay
    uncheck
    check

    Refund policy 

    What if your VPN subscription isn’t all you’d hoped for? Not to worry. Both Surfshark and PIA have a 30-day money-back guarantee. You’ll need to reach out to either provider’s customer support team via email or live chat, and you will get a full refund within 30 days of purchasing the subscription.

    Server locations

    A quick Surfshark review shows 3200+ servers in 100 countries, while PIA servers have around 10,000+ locations in 86 countries.

    At first glance, PIA seems to be the outright winner. But look closer, and you’ll see that most server locations are dotted throughout the United States. What about the rest of the world?

    Below is a list of server locations per platform, including available countries.

    Surfshark
    PIA
    Servers
    3200+
    10,000+
    Countries (total)
    100
    86
    The Americas
    18
    12
    Europe
    46
    42
    Asia Pacific
    27
    26
    The Middle East and Africa
    9
    7

    Both providers are almost equal when logging in from The Middle East, Africa, and the Asia Pacific. Surfshark edges ahead with four more locations in Europe and 11 more countries on offer. PIA wins in terms of localization, with tailored servers in all 50 states. That said, they have fewer server locations in South and Central America — 11.

    Surfshark is actively upgrading servers from 1Gbps to 10Gbps, and gives 93% of the served countries access to 10Gbps servers. PIA doesn’t disclose any numbers, and this alone puts Surfshark ahead of PIA.

    Customer support 

    Good customer support is key to a positive user experience.

    Surfshark
    PIA
    Live chat
    check
    check
    Ticket support
    check
    check
    Email support
    check
    check
    Phone support
    uncheck
    uncheck
    Searchable knowledge base
    check
    check
    Video guides

    Both providers have a solid knowledge base, an FAQ section, and a great customer support team — it’s a draw.

    Surfshark vs. PIA: Reddit reviews

    A Reddit user, paperplans5, has made a VPN comparison table. The VPNs are peer-reviewed, and the results are constantly updated. This community effort is meant to raise awareness about online privacy and help people choose VPN tools for better online security.

    Some of the criteria: jurisdiction, audits, speed, protocols, encryption, leak protection, availability, owned servers, transparency, payment options, customer support, ethics, and additional security features.

    In this table, Surfshark scores second with an aggregate score of 4.33 out of 5, while PIA scores seventh with 3.72.

    Reddit review: Surfshark

    amusedSyrup7877 shares their perspective on Surfshark under the r/VPNrecommendations thread. We’ve condensed the essence of the review into one paragraph:

    Surfshark is a user-friendly multi-platform app with excellent speeds and a zero-logging policy. Surfshark supports P2P file sharing on its 3000+ servers. Surfshark’s smaller server network and browser extensions lacking advanced controls are minor drawbacks. However, Surfshark stands out as a solid choice in the VPN market for its value and straightforward protection.

    Reddit review: PIA

    A Reddit user Bryan_Stinespring shares their PIA review under the subreddit r/VPN_Review. Here’s the essence, but feel free to read the rest of it.

    PIA is a reliable VPN service with impressive performance, speed and a global server network. It uses strong encryption, adheres to a strict no-logs policy, is user-friendly and compatible with various devices. PIA is also affordable and offers customer support options via tickets and live chat.

    Check out other Reddit reviews and discussions:

    The summary

    Category
    Summary
    Server speeds
    While server speed was neck and neck on both platforms, Surfshark was consistently faster.
    Protocols
    Both platforms have very similar protocols, including OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard, and IPsec.
    Added features
    While PIA has some great features for Antivirus and split tunneling, they can't compare to the list of tools available at Surfshark, including Surfshark Alert, Alternative, ID, Surfshark Search, Cookie pop-up blocker, Dynamic MultiHop, etc.
    Privacy and security
    Both platforms have exceptionally strong security and encryption technology. Surfshark does, however, go above and beyond in terms of its additional privacy features, like SmartDNS and NoBorders mode.
    Server locations
    Surfshark locations appear in more countries (100 vs. 86), but PIA's list of local servers (10,000+) puts them in the lead.
    Streaming
    Surfshark performs slightly better than PIA, with 4K HD quality viewing.
    Subscription costs
    In terms of monthly subscription costs, PIA charges $1.98 per month (on a 3-year plan), while Surfshark $2.19 per month (2-year plan).
    Payment methods
    Both platforms have a wide range of banking methods, with Surfshark accepting more types of cryptocurrency.
    Customer support
    Both platforms have good customer support turnaround times.
    Knowledge base
    Both VPN providers have a well-rounded pool of helpful articles.

    Surfshark proves itself to be a fast, affordable, and effective VPN service, while PIA has a strong set of unique features, leading protocols, and some affordable pricing plans. At the end of the day, it’s for you to decide who your favorite is.

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    Surfshark

    More Surfshark reviews and comparisons

    Is Surfshark for you? To help you make a better decision, here’s a Surfshark review. Need more details before subscribing to a VPN service? Look no further!

    Here’s how Surfshark compares to others in its category. And here are individual VPN provider comparisons:

    FAQ

    Can Surfshark VPN be trusted?

    Yes, Surfshark can be trusted — it’s one of the market’s safest and most reliable VPN service providers. Key safety features include a built-in Kill Switch, split tunneling, and AES-256-bit encryption.

    Do Surfshark and Private Internet Access offer any deals?

    Yes, both PIA and Surfshark offer special deals. Surfshark has dedicated pages for limited-time VPN deals and VPN coupons, and so does PIA.