It’s Surfshark vs. Private Internet Access. David vs. Goliath. Batman vs. Superman. But we’ll let you decide who comes out on top. 

Stick around as we compare and contrast PIA vs. Surfshark. We’ll delve deep and see what makes each platform 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 2022 title.

Table of contents

    Surfshark vs. PIA summary

    Surfshark
    PIA
    Simultaneous connections
    Unlimited
    10
    Server countries
    100
    84
    Protocols
    OpenVPN, WireGuard
    WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2, IPSec
    Cookie pop-up blocker
    Ad blocker
    Independent audit
    10Gbps servers
    24/7 support
    Best subscription cost
    $2.49 monthly
    $2.03 monthly
    Money-back guarantee
    30 days
    30 days
    Top products/features
    VPN, Search, Alert, Adblock, Cookie Pop-Up Blocker, Antivirus
    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
    seven days
    seven days

    Speed 

    Speed will always be the biggest marker for a top VPN platform. But how does each service compare? It’s Surfshark vs. PIA in the ultimate need for speed. 

    We tested each platform, using the United States, Brazil, and Switzerland as our jumping-off points. We also focused on WireGuard and OpenVPN protocols and measured our results in Mbps (megabits per second). Here’s what we found. 

    Surfshark vs. PIA speed test results (WireGuard)

    Fastest protocol
    Surfshark (WireGuard)
    PIA (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

    Surfshark speed was consistently faster on both WireGuard and OpenVPN, while PIA came in slightly faster in Brazil but slower in the USA and Switzerland.

    That said, a bunch of different factors can affect your internet speed. While the above metrics were displayed for me, you may see different results according to your region, Wi-Fi, operating system, connection, etc.

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

    Speed winner: Surfshark

    Features

    Let’s unpack some added features designed to enhance your digital life.

    Feature
    Surfshark
    PIA
    AdBlocker
    CleanWeb
    PIA MACE
    AntiVirus
    Lightweight Antivirus
    Antivirus by PIA
    Double VPN
    MultiHop
    Split tunneling
    Bypasser
    Configurable Split Tunneling
    Search capability
    Surfshark Search
    GPS spoofing
    GPS Override
    Cookie pop-up blocker
    Browser extensions
    Alert
    Surfshark Alert
    Identity Guard

    AdBlockers

    Surfshark’s CleanWeb ad blocker prevents malicious ads, pop-ups, trackers, or dangerous websites from accessing your information. The feature is included in all subscriptions and is available on Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows. 

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

    Antivirus

    Surfshark’s lightweight antivirus app will give you real-time online protection. Available for Windows, Mac, and Android, the feature scans your system for viruses and malware while  analyzing unknown files to stop zero-day attacks. Moreover, the app won’t take up too much space or slow down your device as multiple antivirus programs would.

    PIA has its own in-house antivirus that will scan your PC and protect your account from online attacks. Both platforms have data breach monitoring tools and the ability to hide your IP address and physical location. We found that, while less robust than PIA, Surfshark Antivirus was easier to set up.

    Double VPN

    Surfshark’s “MultiHop” double VPN feature will hide your online activity by routing your traffic through two different VPN servers instead of one. With a double VPN, your onsite data will be encrypted twice, giving you an added layer of protection and potentially faster processing speeds. Currently, PIA doesn’t offer this service. 

    Split tunneling

    Both platforms have a built-in split tunneling feature where you can choose which data you’d like to encrypt. Split tunneling protects sensitive information (banking details, passwords, etc.) by using multiple IP addresses to separate files.  

    You can access split tunneling on both PIA’s and Surshark’s desktop and mobile apps, although Surshark’s is called “Bypasser.” 

    Search capability

    Surfshark has a built-in private search feature where you can pull up organic results specific to your region on Google and Bing. Surfshark Search will never track your activity and will never display onsite ads. Currently, PIA doesn’t have its own incognito search tool.

    GPS override 

    Using GPS Override on Surfshark’s Android app will make your device appear in a different location or time zone, meaning you can ensure your online privacy and personal data aren’t tracked by unnecessary apps. At this time, PIA offers minimal GPS spoofing capabilities. 

    Cookie pop-up blocker

    Surfshark’s cookie pop-up blocker removes all cookie pop-ups, meaning you’ll never have to deal with annoying banners and consent requests when browsing online. PIA doesn’t have such a feature at the moment.

    Alerts and notifications

    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.

    Features winner: Surfshark

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    Licensing and jurisdiction

    When comparing Surfshark vs. PIA, jurisdiction plays a massive role. And while both Surfshark and PIA are premium providers with affordable subscription costs and strong reputations, Surshark takes the top position when it comes to licensing and jurisdiction

    Being based in the Netherlands keeps Surfshark free from obligatory data retention laws and 5/9/14 Eyes surveillance. Furthermore, the platform’s strict no-logging policy ensures your digital privacy is protected 24/7.

    Private Internet Access (PIA) is a little trickier to back. Based in the United States, the service is held to Five Eyes surveillance and must release user data on request. And while the site claims to have its no-logging policy, it’s still pretty difficult to enforce.

    Winner: Surfshark

    VPN credibility and auditing 

    We want to know that we’re dealing with a reputable VPN service. The best way to find out 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. 

    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. 

    PIA audit

    PIA never had an independent audit to back up its privacy claims. However, they have been subpoenaed twice, where the company had to provide data logs on two cases. True to their advertised “No Logs” policy, the data was never recorded.

    VPN credibility & auditing winner: Surfshark

    Privacy and security 

    Brace yourself as Surfshark vs. PIA tackles privacy and security. At this point, things can get a little…hazy. Jargon takes over, descriptions get tricky, and your eyes may start to glaze over. But never fear! You don’t need to be a hardcore VPN guru to stay safe online.

    What are VPN protocols?

    A set of rules that determines how your internet connection will run through your computer/device and the VPN server. 

    These protocols are designed to provide safe, secure, and stable connections while keeping your data safe and protected.

    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 platforms run AES-256, which is the single strongest encryption standard in 2022. AES splits incoming data into blocks and applies different cryptographic keys for each protocol.

    Simply put? It’s virtually impossible to hack or break into your data.

    Moreover, both platforms use RSA 2048 encryption keys which are impossible to crack. 

    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 top-notch cloaking features to hide your digital footprint. Surfshark has a built-in obfuscation tool (called Camouflage mode) that hides the fact that you’re using a VPN and makes your connection look like regular traffic. Especially useful in regions with restrictive internet laws or for bypassing geo-blocking websites.

    PIA has its own obfuscation tool (ShadowSOCKS) that disguises your VPN data as regular, run-of-the-mill traffic while hiding all metadata.

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

    Smart DNS

    Smart DNS allows you to unblock geo-restricted sites and services through your smart TV or gaming console. You’ll be able to access the free web without needing to install a VPN.

    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 that will disconnect you from the internet if your connection drops. A Kill Switch ensures your privacy is always protected and your data is never compromised.

    Security & privacy winner: Surfshark

    Server locations

    A quick Surfshark review shows 3200+ dedicated servers in 100 countries, while Private Internet Access servers have around 10,000+ locations in 84 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. Great if you’re all about US content, but not if you’re looking to go global. 

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

    Surfshark
    PIA
    Servers
    3200+
    10,000+
    Countries (total)
    100
    84
    Americas
    17
    12
    Europe
    46
    42
    Asia Pacific
    23
    26
    The Middle East and Africa
    7
    7

    Both providers are neck and neck when logging in from The Middle East, Africa, and the Asia Pacifics. Surfshark edges ahead with four more locations in Europe and 11 more countries on offer. PIA wins by a landslide in terms of localization, with tailored servers in all 50 states. That said, they do hold less sway in South and Central America, with 11 locations. 

    Lastly, further points go to server speed. Surfshark is actively upgrading servers from 1 Gbps to 10 Gbps, and this alone puts them far ahead of PIA, who still has a way to go in terms of overall speed and localized precision.

    Server locations winner: PIA

    Desktop/mobile compatibility

    Surfshark and PIA have standalone apps for all the best and brightest devices and operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, Chrome, and Firefox. Both services are fully compatible with gaming consoles, including Xbox One, where you’ll have your own personal VPN “Halo” that you can use to “Mass Effect” when playing online. 

    While PIA has a dedicated browser extension for Opera, Surshark has a better choice of connections to leading SmartTV options, like Apple TV, Chromecast, or Nvidia Shield.

    Both Surfshark and PIA offer VPN services for supported routers, giving you the freedom to secure any device throughout your home or workspace. And if you’re really pressed for time, you can buy a Surfshark router with a pre-installed VPN connection.

    Check out the comparison below and get up to speed with what each service offers.

    Device/OS
    Surfshark
    PIA
    Windows
    macOS
    Linux
    Android
    iOS
    Chrome
    Firefox
    Consoles
    Smart TV
    FireTV
    Edge
    Opera

    Desktop/mobile compatibility winner: PIA

    Pricing and plans 

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

    Surfshark starts out at $12.95 per month or $6.49 monthly for six months. The platform lowers its price point to $3.99 monthly for 12 months and $2.49 monthly for a 24-month subscription.

    PIA comes in slightly lower at $11.95 per month and $3.33 per month for a 12-month subscription. The platform also runs a $2.03 monthly subscription for a 36-month plan.

    Pricing

    Here’s a quick pricing comparison for easy reference. Remember that subscription costs may change from time to time, so be sure to check out the platform’s latest pricing plans before purchasing your subscription.

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

    Plan
    Surfshark
    PIA
    One-month subscription
    $12.95 monthly
    $11.95 monthly
    12-month subscription
    $3.99 monthly
    $3.33 per month
    24-month subscription
    $2.49 monthly
    N/A
    36-month subscription
    N/A
    $2.03 monthly

    Payment methods

    Both Surfshark and PIA have quick, safe, and reliable banking methods on offer including credit/debit cards, eWallets, and some leading cryptocurrencies. Depending on the method, processing can take anywhere from an hour to a day to reflect, where 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
    Mastercard
    AMEX
    Discover Card
    American Express (AMEX)
    PayPal
    Amazon Pay
    GooglePay
    ACH
    Bitcoin (BTC)
    Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
    Ethereum (ETH)
    TRON (TRX)
    Tether (USDT)
    Litecoin (LTC)
    Dai (DAI)
    Nano (XNO)
    BitTorrent (BTT)
    Travala.com (AVA)
    BitPay

    Refund policy 

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

    Seven-day free trial 

    When comparing Surfshark vs. PIA, both platforms offer a 7-day free trial for Android, iOS, and macOS.

    To activate your 7-day free trial on either platform, you’ll need to download the app, add your banking details and choose an appropriate plan (i.e., 12, 24, or 36 months). From there, test out the service, switch between encrypted servers, and browse the web safely and securely from anywhere in the world. 

    When your trial is up, you’ll get a reminder email. If you miss the notification and payment goes off, you can reach out to customer support and redeem your 30-day money-back guarantee.

    Pricing & plans winner: It’s a tie

    Customer support 

    No one wants to feel like they’re shouting into an empty void whenever a simple question pops up, and the right customer support team can make all the difference between liking and loving service. We need to know that questions never go unanswered and that there is always a good solution just around the bend.

    Surfshark
    PIA
    Live chat
    Ticket support
    Email support
    Phone support
    Searchable knowledge base
    Video guide
    Average email response time
    1.5 hours
    2 hours

    Both platforms had speedy response times on live chat, wherein the time it took me to make a coffee and grapple with Monday morning existential dread (about a minute), there were already two answers waiting for me. That said, Surfshark came in just ahead at 50 seconds. 

    While both sites have a solid onsite knowledge base and FAQ section, Surfshark takes the lead. Their Youtube tutorials (Surfshark Academy) are ideal for short sharp info bursts and cover everything from antivirus and password protection to top features.  

    You can also search for help directly on Surfshark’s homepage, while PIA can only direct you to the best sources from their help center.

    Customer support winner: Surfshark

    Surfshark vs. Private Internet Access: The verdict

    That’s just about it for this comparison. While PIA has a strong set of unique features, leading protocols, and some affordable pricing plans, Surfshark is our overall winner.

    Category
    Overall winner
    Notes
    Independent audit
    Surfshark
    Surfshark has undergone two separate independent audits making them a firm favorite for platform credibility and reputation.
    Server speeds
    Surfshark
    While server speed was neck and neck on both platforms, Surfshark was consistently faster.
    Protocols
    Tie
    Both platforms have very similar protocols, including OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard, and IPsec.
    Added features
    Surfshark
    While PIA has some great features for Antivirus and split tunneling, they can't compare to the list of tools available at Surfhsark, including Surfshark Alert, Surfshark Search, Cookie pop-up blockers, MultiHop, etc.
    Privacy and security
    Surfshark
    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
    PIA
    Surfshark locations appear in more countries (95 vs. 84), but PIA's list of local servers (10,000+) puts them in the lead.
    Streaming
    Surfshark
    Surfshark performed slightly better than PIA, with 4K HD quality viewing.
    Desktop/mobile compatibility
    PIA
    Surfshark and PIA are almost identical. However, PIA squeaks ahead of Surfshark with a little more variety.
    Subscription costs
    PIA
    In terms of monthly subscription costs, PIA takes the lead at $2.03 per month (on a 3-year plan).
    Payment methods
    Surfshark
    Both platforms have a wide range of banking methods, but Surfshark won this round for having a stronger emphasis on cryptocurrency.
    Customer support
    Surfshark
    Both platforms have ultra-fast customer support turnaround times, but Surfshark’s was faster on live chat and email.
    Knowledge base
    Surfshark
    The Surfshark knowledge base is much easier to navigate through. Additionally, their comprehensive list of video tutorials makes onboarding all the more enjoyable.

    Surfshark conquered almost every category, proving itself to be a fast, affordable, and viciously effective VPN service. And while PIA holds the upper hand (for now) in terms of its lower subscription costs and range of servers, Surfshark shows no sign of slowing down. With ultimate victory going to Surfshark, here’s a quick reminder of how they took the title.

    1. While PIA claims to have a no-logging policy, the proof is in the pudding, and Surfshark delivers with two independent audits.
    2. Although PIA has more localized servers, Surfshark connects to more countries.
    3. PIA is held to obligatory data retention laws, while Surfshark isn’t. 
    4. Surshark has unlimited simultaneous connections, while PIA caps at 10. 
    5. Surfshark has more additional privacy and security features than PIA. 
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    FAQ

    Is Surfshark better than PIA? 

    When comparing Surfshark vs. PIA, Surfshark comes out on top with faster connection speeds, further safety protocols, and more features. Added points are awarded to Surfshark for being based in a privacy-friendly location. 

    Can PIA be trusted?

    While PIA has a strong set of security features, including AES-256 encryption and configurable split tunneling, they are still held to United States data policies and Five Eyes surveillance. Moreover, PIA forms part of Kape Technologies, a VPN conglomerate with a controversial history around data retention and online privacy.

    Can Surfshark VPN be trusted?

    Yes. Surfshark is 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.

    Is Private Internet Access safe? 

    Yes and no. PIA is part of Kape Technologies, a controversial conglomerate with a history of distributing malware. And while we won’t see the full effects for a while, this doesn’t bode well for PIA’s onsite credibility.