Last Updated on June 3, 2022 by Walter
Surfshark vs Pia who wins this VPN battle? Surfshark and (PIA) Private Internet Access are the two most affordable virtual private networks in the industry, besides WeVPN. Although they are at the lower end price range, their capabilities can vary. We'll be comparing Surfshark and PIA to help you choose the best VPN provider for your needs.
Surfshark vs PiaThe Key Takeaways
You must thoroughly test each VPN to see the differences between PIA VPN and Surfshark. This can take a long and tedious process. To help you make an informed and quick decision, we did all the research for you. Surfshark is the best choice if you need a quick answer.
- Is Surfshark better than PIA? Surfshark's performance surpasses that of PIA in streaming, torrenting, customer support, and speed. It is also comparable to Private Internet Access in terms of security, privacy, and user-friendliness.
- Surfshark is trustworthy? Surfshark VPN is trusted and has never been subject to any privacy or security breach.
- Is PIA VPN a strong VPN? Yes, PIA VPN is a solid VPN that provides strong security and privacy.
Surfshark vs PIA Detailed Comparison & Testing
The Surfshark vs PIA comparison is a lot like a nine-round boxing match. Each round is a key aspect of VPN such as speed and pricing, features, privacy, security, streaming, and more.
Each round will see us test and evaluate VPN services and then weigh their performance. Each round will award a point to the VPN with the highest performance. If there is a tie, each service will receive a point. The final round will count the points and determine the winner.
Although a VPN service can slow down your internet connection, the best VPNs will ensure that you have the fastest upload and download speeds. You can stream, torrent, and browse without interruptions thanks to their high internet speeds. To see how Surfshark compares to PIA in this regard, we ran a series of speed tests.
Surfshark vs. Private Internet Access Speed Test Results
Surfshark has been praised for its impressive speeds. Our results show that it continues to be a popular choice. It is third in upload speed, behind Speedify and ExpressVPN. Although its latency and download speed isn't the fastest, it is still one of the most reliable VPNs for gaming.
Private Internet Access's performance in this category has been criticized to the extreme. Although its upload speeds are comparable with Surfshark's, it fails to deliver on download and latency. PIA failed to reach 56% of the unprotected internet download speeds, and it increased latency by a staggering 114%.
This round is clear. Surfshark has been declared the clear winner, outperforming PIA in all speed categories: upload, download and latency.
Private Internet Access's features may change your mind if you have already decided against it due to its slow speeds. Like Surfshark PIA is packed with all the essential VPN features and spruces it up with premium add-ons.
PIA vs Surfshark VPN OS Support
Surfshark and PIA offer native apps for Android and iOS as well as Windows, macOS, and Linux operating system (OSes). VPN services can also be used seamlessly with smart TVs (such as Apple TV), gaming consoles and routers as well as major web browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.
Surfshark provides native apps for all major mobile and desktop operating systems. It also works with routers and gaming consoles as well as browser extensions and smart TVs.
Surfshark can be installed on as many devices and as many devices you wish. PIA can only allow you to create 10 simultaneous connections. Surfshark allows unlimited simultaneous connections.
Internet Kill Switch and Split Tunneling
Surfshark's most basic kill switch cuts off your internet connection when the VPN connection drops. PIA also offers a similar tool, but with an advanced kill switch. This prevents you connecting to the internet if the VPN connection is not active.
PIA provides a VPN and an advanced kill switch.
Both service providers offer split tunneling via IP and app. Surfshark also supports URL-based split tunneling. Surfshark is only compatible with Android and desktop OSes. However, PIA Split Tunneling is available.
Surfshark allows split tunneling via URL or app.
Additional VPN Features
The VPN providers offer more than just the standard features. Some of these add-ons can be paid for. The ad blocking feature is first available at PIA (PIA MACE) and Surfshark (CleanWeb).
You can use PIA port forwarding to allow inbound data to bypass NAT firewalls to increase your internet connection speed.
You can also purchase antivirus add-ons such as SurfsharkONE or Antivirus by PIA. PIA also offers Identity Guard, an email breach monitor that can be accessed from the client control panel. This tool scans your email address and checks for known data breaches to determine if it is in fact there.
Surfshark, PIA and other VPNs offer all the basic features but add more. These VPNs have all you need in modern VPNs, so it is difficult to distinguish them. However, Identity Guard's absence of split tunneling in macOS and Surfshark’s inability to do so in macOS tip the balance in favor of PIA.
We've seen that both basic VPN features are offered by providers and advanced features are available to them all. We'll be adding money to the equation in this section to determine the value of each VPN.
Comparison of Surfshark pricing and PIA pricing
- Plan for one month: $12.95
- 6 Months: $6.49
- 12 Months: $3.99
- 24 Months: $2.49 (82% OFF + 2 months free)
- Plan for one month: $11.99
- 6 Months: $7.5
- 12 Months: N/A
- 24 Months: 2.19
If affordability were to be a factor in your decision, it's likely that you would choose PIA. The Surfshark monthly plan is slightly more than PIA's, but extended plans offer huge discounts. The two-year plan, for example, costs $2.03 per monthly (assuming you include two months free), which is an 80% discount. Surfshark can be as affordable as PIA, but not at the same price.
Both VPN providers charge an additional fee for add-on features. Surfshark One will cost you $1.49 per monthly. The length of your subscription will determine how much you pay for PIA add ons.
Get a free trial and a money-back guarantee
Surfshark offers a 7-day free trial for Mac and mobile users. PIA also offers a seven-day trial, but this is only for mobile devices. The lack of a Windows free trial shouldn't be a concern as both VPN services offer a 30-day guarantee.
You've probably read our Surfshark VPN comparisons and know that this provider is always the best. Surfshark is outmatched in this review. However, PIA is clearly the more affordable VPN. Surfshark loses to PIA in this matchup.
4. Security & Privacy
You should first assess how secure a VPN is before you spend any money on it. VPN security is determined by the quality and standards of encryption used.
Surfshark VPN allows you to choose from OpenVPN (UDP, TCP), WireGuard, or IKEv2 as your VPN protocol. These protocols all use AES256-bit encryption.
Surfshark apps are protected by strong AES256-bit encryption and secure protocols.
PIA uses OpenVPN as a default, however, you can switch to WireGuard for all platforms and IKEv2 for iOS. PIA allows you to decrease the packet size to improve your VPN performance if your internet connection is unstable.
Unlike other VPNs, PIA multihop reroutes traffic through a proxy.
Additional Security Features
Both offer multi-hop capabilities, but they work differently. Surfshark multihop routes your traffic through two VPN servers. PIA multihop redirects your VPN traffic via a proxy.
Unlike other VPNs, PIA multihop reroutes traffic through a proxy.
The two providers also support obfuscation which makes VPN traffic appear normal. Surfshark also offers the NoBorders mode, which allows you to access restricted content from restrictive countries.
Surfshark and Private Internet Access Policy No-Logs
Surfshark, PIA and other companies remain committed to their no-logs policies. This means that they do not collect, store, or share user data, traffic logs or IP addresses, or information about websites visited.
Surfshark logs user IDs and connection timestamps for VPN servers you connect to. The provider will erase this information within 15 minutes. PIA on the other side, however, retains your payment information as well as your email address. This is what it claims to use in order to maintain the service.
Surfshark Incogni, a tool that automates data removal requests management, is also available. Surfshark's performance here is not affected by this standalone tool.
These two providers provide strong security with excellent encryption standards, solid VPN protocols and a great set of advanced security features. They also adhere to a strict no logs policy and have never experienced a security breach. All factors being considered, VPNs are comparable and a tie would be fair.
Round: Security & Privacy
There is no clear winner. Both can win.
The best VPN for streaming has fast download speeds and unblocks streaming services. Speed is only relevant once you access the streaming service. The real question is: Can these VPNs unblock the correct platforms?
Private Internet Access streaming can be a mixed bag. To unblock streaming from the United States, we had to switch servers. After several attempts, we finally managed to access Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video. Unfortunately, we were unable to bypass geoblocking on HBO Max or BBC iPlayer.
PIA is unable to unblock streaming services but it provides a great buffering-free experience.
Surfshark was a better choice, getting us into Disney Plus in the first attempt. It took us many attempts to get into Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer, as well as HBO Max.
Can Surfshark VPN and PIA unblock Netflix?
Surfshark as well as PIA excel at Netflix streaming. Although they have to make multiple attempts to unlock this platform, streaming is easy. PIA takes a while for videos to load, due to its slow download speeds. The good thing about PIA is that once the videos load, buffering is not an issue.
Surfshark isn't the best streaming VPN. Despite their flaws, Surfshark is a better streaming VPN than PIA. It unblocks HBO Max, BBC iPlayer, and other streaming services that PIA cannot unblock. Surfshark is the winner.
Fast download speeds are essential for torrenting VPNs. They also need to be secure online. Surfshark, PIA and other VPNs meet these criteria but the download speeds aren’t the fastest. To compare the two, we downloaded a 1GB torrent file from PIA using a 3Mbps internet connection.
VPN: Top speed
- PIA 0.38MB/s 83 Minutes
- Surfshark0.45MB/s 72 Minutes
We expected PIA to struggle in torrent download tests due to its slow download speeds. Surprisingly the VPN performed well, with download speeds as high as 0.38 MB per sec. Despite PIA's best efforts, the torrent download took 83 minutes, compared with Surfshark's 75 minutes.
Surfshark is the clear winner. Surfshark and NordVPN comparisons are available.
Disclaimer: All VPN providers, and that is the case with Surfshark and PIA, do not encourage using Torrents.
7. Server locations
We evaluate VPN server performance using two lenses, server count and geographic diversity. Because the geographic distribution is more important, the greater the number of country-specific IP addresses that you have, we give it more weight. A higher server count means that you have more options for server locations in a particular region.
Although Surfshark is new to the VPN market, it already has more than 3,200 servers. This provider provides VPN servers in over 65 countries, as well as some less-known regions like Africa and the Middle East.
Surfshark's server network offers shared IP, static IP, and multi-hop servers.
PIA does not publish the number of servers it has in its fleet. We reached out to PIA support about the same issue, but the agent wouldn't reveal the exact number. Last time PIA published their number, it had more than 3,400 servers. However, it is not clear if the number has changed or increased. PIA has VPN servers located in 84 countries, with the majority in the U.S.
PIA offers dedicated IP servers in addition to its regular servers. However, this comes at an additional cost (see pricing section). Surfshark offers static IP servers for free. Learn more about shared vs static IP in our dedicated guide.
PIA dedicated IP assigns a static IP to you that is exclusively yours.
If PIA's servers are kept at 3,400, it would mean that the provider is outperforming Surfshark in this area. PIA also has VPN servers in 19 additional countries than Surfshark. We give PIA the award and a point for this category.
A VPN should not only offer the best features but also make it easier to use. This section will focus on the subjective realms of user-friendliness, which will show you how simple or difficult it can be to use these VPNs.
The bright side of things: Surfshark (and PIA) have a simple, modern user interface. The desktop apps have a clean UI with clearly labeled objects so it's easy to navigate. You can either search by country name for the server that you are looking for or browse the entire list.
Surfshark's UI is clean and easy to use.
Changing the default settings of Surfshark and PIA is easy via the “settings tab”. Each setting is easily accessed and can be turned on or off with a touch of a button.
Like Surfshark PIA is simple to set up and use even for complete beginners.
VPN Service Mobile Apps
Surfshark's Android application is just as powerful and as easy to use than its desktop version. You get all the features, including split tunneling and a kill switch. Although the iOS app is similar to the desktop, it lacks split tunneling.
Surfshark's Android application layout is identical to the desktop version. It is also easy to use.
In terms of ease-of-use, PIA mobile apps are more user-friendly than the desktop version. The Android app has a quick settings option that allows you to quickly access and configure features like the VPN kill switch or automation. The iOS app is simple to use and includes additional features like the IKEv2 protocol.
The PIA Android app works better than the desktop version.
Surfshark as well as PIA are extremely easy to use even for novices. It's easy to connect to a VPN server and adjust the settings to your liking. We have to declare a tie between the two providers and award them each a point.
There is no clear winner. Both can win.
9. Support for Customers
Surfshark, PIA and other services offer self-service options that can help you solve some problems on your own. Both offer FAQs and a knowledgebase, which includes a collection of articles and guidelines that will help you with most aspects of billing, installation, and technical issues.
They also offer live chat support, which is best for problems that require immediate attention from a human agent. Each support team provided satisfactory responses when we reached out via live chat. Surfshark took a bit longer to answer our questions than PIA agents and they weren't as knowledgeable on the topic.
PIA provides live chat support but agents can sometimes take too much time to answer questions.
Surfshark, PIA and PIA also offer email ticket support. If you need to communicate with agents on a deeper level or attach screenshots of the problem, ticket support is the best option. The two service providers do not offer phone support.
It's hard to distinguish PIA from Surfshark when you look at all the options available. They offer similar support options such as live chat, knowledgebase and FAQs, and email support. Surfshark is favored by the slow response time of PIA agents via live chat.
You might also want to check this article on Surfshark vs PureVPN.
The matchup between Surfshark and Private Internet Access was decided by slim margins. Surfshark scored six points, compared with five for the PIA. However, there was more to the bout that the total scores.
Surfshark and PIA had equal results in security and usability. Surfshark was outperformed by PIA in pricing, features and server locations. Surfshark was able to outperform PIA when it comes to streaming, torrenting, speed and customer service.
Your needs will determine which VPN you choose. Surfshark is safer if you are looking to download torrents or stream movies. PIA offers better options to unblock geo-restricted content around the world.
What do you think about our Surfshark vs PIA comparisons? These services are you familiar with? Are there any categories you feel the providers have unfairly won, drew, or lost? Let us know about it. We appreciate your interest as always.