Surfshark vs. Private Internet Access 2024 — Which Is Better?

Updated on: May 24, 2024
Fact Checked by Eric Goldstein
Kristel van Hoof Kristel van Hoof
Updated on: May 24, 2024 Writer

Short on Time? Here’s the Final Verdict:

  • 🥇 Private Internet Access  — Winner in Speeds, Torrenting, and Bypassing Censorship. PIA has super-fast speeds, allows torrenting on all its servers and provides extra P2P-related features, and works well in countries that restrict internet access.

Surfshark and Private Internet Access (PIA) are two of the leading VPNs on the market — both have advanced security features like RAM-only servers that don’t save data to hard drives. In addition, they work with popular streaming platforms, are great for gaming, allow unlimited connections, and offer user-friendly apps for a wide range of devices. Surfshark and PIA also come with extra features like split-tunneling, a smart DNS, ad and malware blockers, and obfuscation that hides the fact you’re using a VPN.

But there are a few differences between the two. PIA maintains very fast speeds on nearby and distant servers, has better P2P support since it has port forwarding and SOCKS5 proxy support, and works in restrictive countries. Surfshark has slower speeds, lacks extra P2P-related features, and doesn’t work in restrictive countries like China.

I compared Surfshark and PIA for security and privacy features, extra features, servers, speeds, streaming, torrenting, gaming, ease of use, plans and pricing, and customer service. I found that Private Internet Access is the best option, but I still recommend that you read the entire comparison so you can decide which VPN is better for you. Editors' Note: Private Internet Access and this site are in the same ownership group.

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Surfshark vs. Private Internet Access — Quick Overview

Surfshark Private Internet Access
💸Starting Price Starts at $2.19 / month Starts at $2.03 / month
📱 Number of Simultaneous Device Connections Unlimited Unlimited
🔐Security 256-bit AES encryption,
No-logs policy (audited),
Kill switch,
DNS leak protection,
Perfect forward secrecy,
RAM-only servers
256-bit AES encryption,
No-logs policy (audited and court-proven),
Kill switch,
Full leak protection,
Perfect forward secrecy,
RAM-only servers
🌍 Number of Servers 3,200+ in 100 countries Unknown number of servers in 91 countries
⚡️ Speeds Fast speeds on local servers and average speeds on distant servers. Superfast speeds on local servers and very good speeds on distant servers.
🎥Streaming Support Works with Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, and BBC iPlayer. Works with Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and Disney+
🔽P2P Support
3,200+ servers in 100 countries

Unknown number of servers in 91 countries
💻 Apps iOS,
Android,
Windows,
macOS,
Linux,
Android TV,
Fire TV
Chromebook
iOS,
Android,
Windows,
macOS,
Linux,
Android TV,
Fire TV
Chromebook
❓Customer Support 24/7 live chat,
Email support,
In-depth knowledge base
24/7 live chat,
Email support,
In-depth knowledge base
💰 Money-Back Guarantee 30 days 30 days

Security — Both VPNs Are Great Picks

256-Bit AES Encryption Audited No-Logs Policy Kill Switch Leak Protection RAM-Only Servers Perfect Forward Secrecy
Surfshark DNS leaks only
Private Internet Access Full leak protection (IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC)

Surfhark and Private Internet Access come with standard security features, such as:

  • 256-bit AES encryption. This level of encryption is military-grade and ensures that your online traffic is unreadable to prying eyes. PIA also allows you to switch between 256-bit AES encryption for maximum security and 128-bit encryption for faster connection speeds but with a lower — but still good — level of security.
  • No-logs policy. This ensures the VPN provider won’t log your IP address or browsing history.
  • Kill switch. This feature automatically disables your internet access if the VPN connection drops. This is essential to prevent your IP address from becoming known to third parties and to protect your online identity.

Both VPNs offer a flexible kill switch. This means that you can choose the kill switch to activate only when the VPN connection drops or when you’re not connected to a VPN server at all. The latter option can be beneficial if you want to ensure that you don’t unintentionally browse the internet without first establishing a secure VPN connection.

However, only PIA comes with full leak protection. The VPN protects against IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks. Surfshark only protects against DNS leaks, meaning that you have to manually disable IPv6 and WebRTC.

I like that both Surfshark and PIA offer RAM-only servers and perfect forward secrecy. RAM-only servers ensure that none of your browsing history is recorded on hard drives. Perfect forward secrecy changes the encryption key for each VPN session. This means any potential hacker could only access traffic associated with a single key.

Both VPNs support secure protocols, including OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEv2/IPSec. I was happy to see that Surfshark and PIA both include WireGuard since it’s a super fast and secure protocol. During my tests, WireGuard maintained a faster speed than IKEv2/IPSec and OpenVPN.

Finally, each one secures your account with two-factor authentication. This feature allows you to log in only if you have a time-dependent code that is created by an app or a security key.

Winner (Security): It’s a tie

I just can’t choose a winner since both VPNs are very secure. Surfshark and PIA have military-grade encryption, an audited no-logs policy, RAM-only servers, perfect forward secrecy, a kill switch, fast and secure VPN protocols, and two-factor authentication. However, PIA comes with full leak protection whereas Surfshark only protects against DNS leaks.

Extra Features — Surfshark Offers More Extra Features

Split-Tunneling Obfuscation Blocks Ads Blocks Malicious Sites Tor Support Smart DNS Other Features
Surfshark Dynamic MultiHop, NoBorders, IP Rotator, Speed test, Override GPS Location
Private Internet Access Identity Guard, MultiHop,
Dedicated IPs

Both VPNs offer a variety of convenient features, but Surfshark has a few more extras. Both Surfshark and PIA offer:

  • Split-tunneling: Both VPNs let you choose which apps or websites use the VPN connection and which use your regular internet connection.
  • Obfuscation: This feature makes your traffic look like normal internet traffic, making it harder to detect that you’re using a VPN.
  • Ad and malware blocker: Surfshark’s CleanWeb and PIA’s MACE both block ads, malware, and trackers.
  • Tor support: Both VPNs allow Tor traffic on all their servers, meaning that you can use the VPN to browse the dark web with the Tor browser.
  • Smart DNS: Both services have a smart DNS feature, which allows you to use the VPN on devices that normally don’t support VPN apps, such as smart TVs and gaming consoles.
  • Dedicated IP addresses: For a small additional cost, you can get an IP address that is assigned only to you.

PIA also has Identity Guard, which alerts you if your email address has been compromised in a data breach.

Surfshark offers a few more extra features that PIA doesn’t come with:

  • NoBorders: A list of specific servers that work on restrictive networks. This is a useful feature if you’re using Wi-Fi networks that restrict access to certain sites, like networks at college or the workplace.
  • Dynamic MultiHop: Sends your data through 2 VPN servers instead of just 1 server to provide better security. Also lets you choose whichever entry and exit servers you want.
  • IP Rotator: Regularly changes your IP address without dropping the VPN connection. This feature is great for better privacy, making it difficult for anyone to track your online activities.
  • Built-in speed test: Feature where you can run speed tests to find the fastest server. However, during my tests, I found that this feature isn’t 100% accurate.
  • Override GPS Location (Android only): Allows you to match your GPS data to your VPN IP address.

Winner (Extra Features): Surfshark

Both VPNs come with excellent extra features, but Surfshark offers a few more. They both have split tunneling, obfuscation, an ad and malware blocker, Tor support, smart DNS, and dedicated IP addresses. In addition to that, Surfshark also comes with NoBorders, IP Rotator, Dynamic MultiHop, a built-in speed test, and Override GPS Location.

Privacy — Both VPNs Provide Great Privacy

Logs User IP Addresses Logs User Traffic Audited No-Logs Policy Headquarters Open Source Apps
Surfshark The Netherlands (part of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances)
Private Internet Access The US (part of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances)

Both Surfshark and Private Internet Access protect your online privacy. They come with a strict no-logs policy that has been audited by independent security companies. In addition, PIA’s no-logs policy has been verified in court multiple times.

Unfortunately, both VPNs are headquartered in countries that are not privacy-friendly. Surfshark has its headquarters in the Netherlands, and PIA is headquartered in the US. Both countries are part of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances. This means that they’re obligated by law to hand over information if authorities from member countries ask for it. The good news is that both VPNs have a strict no-logs policy so they won’t have data to turn over.

But only PIA has open-source apps, meaning anyone can inspect their code. I also like how PIA publishes regular transparency reports. These reports include the details of what requests it’s received and how often it complied with the authorities’ requests for user data.

Winner (Privacy): It’s a tie

Both Private Internet Access and Surfshark come with excellent privacy features. They both have strict no-logs policies that have been independently audited. And PIA also has open-source apps and releases a regular transparency report.

Servers — Both VPNs Have Great Server Networks

Number of Servers Number of Countries Virtual Locations P2P Servers Obfuscated Servers Dedicated IP Addresses
Surfshark 3,200+ 100
(All servers in 100 countries)
Private Internet Access Unknown 91
(All servers in 91 countries)

Both PIA and Surfshark have an extensive server network. PIA offers servers in 91 countries but doesn’t disclose its total number of servers, and Surfshark has 3,200+ servers in 100 countries.

Both VPNs use virtual servers. These are servers that get you an IP address from the country you connect to, while the server is physically located in a different country. This allows the VPN provider to have greater access to countries with internet restrictions or poor internet infrastructure, giving you more server options. And both VPNs support obfuscation and torrenting on all of their servers.

Another thing they each offer is dedicated IP addresses for a small additional cost. This is an IP address that is only assigned to you. PIA has dedicated IP addresses in Canada, Switzerland, the UK, the US, Germany, Singapore, and Japan, and Surfshark provides dedicated IP addresses in the US, the UK, the Netherlands, and Germany.

Winner (Servers): It’s a tie

Both providers have great server networks — Surfshark has servers in 100 countries, while PIA has servers in 91 countries. Next to that, both VPNs support obfuscation and torrenting across all servers, and also come with dedicated IP addresses.

Speeds — Private Internet Access Is Faster

Website Load Time HD Video Load Time 4K Video Load Time Time to Download a 20 GB File
Surfshark Instantly Instantly 4 seconds 15 minutes
Private Internet Access Instantly Instantly 2 seconds 11 minutes

Both Surfshark and PIA maintain fast speeds, but PIA was faster in my tests. When I tested PIA’s servers, I had very good speeds. Websites generally loaded instantly, HD videos loaded instantly and didn’t buffer, 4K videos took just 2 seconds to load and there were no quality drops, and it only took me 11 minutes to torrent a 20 GB file.

Surfshark was also pretty fast in my tests. Sites and HD videos loaded instantly, 4K videos took 4 seconds to load and there was only minor buffering at the start, and the same 20 GB file took 15 minutes to download.

Winner (Speeds): Private Internet Access

Both PIA and Surfshark have fast speeds, but PIA was faster in my tests. Website and HD videos loaded instantly with both providers, but 4K videos loaded slightly faster with PIA, and it also took me less time to torrent a 20 GB file with PIA.

Streaming — Both VPNs Are Good Streaming Options

Number of Streaming Services the VPN Works With Works With Netflix Works With BBC iPlayer, Max, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ Smart DNS
Surfshark 50+ Work with all sites except for Disney +
Private Internet Access 30+

Both PIA and Surfshark offer great streaming support. They both work with top sites, including Netflix, Max, and Amazon Prime. However, my colleague in the US found that only PIA also works with Disney+.

Surfshark and PIA both come with smart DNS, so you can use them on devices that don’t support VPN apps, like certain smart TVs or gaming consoles. You need to perform a manual setup to use the smart DNS, but both VPNs provide helpful tutorials.

Winner (Streaming): It’s a tie

Both VPN providers are great options for streaming. Both VPNs work on popular streaming platforms, including Netflix and Max, and both offer a smart DNS for devices that don’t normally support VPNs. However, Surfshark doesn’t work with Disney+.

Torrenting — Private Internet Access Is a Better Choice for Torrenting

P2P Servers Works With Top P2P Apps Port Forwarding SOCKS5 Proxy Support Kill Switch No-Logs Policy
Surfshark
(3,200+ servers in 100 countries)
Private Internet Access
(Unknown number of servers in 91 countries)

Both Surfshark and PIA allow torrenting on all their servers. Surfshark allows P2P traffic on its servers in 100 countries, whereas Private Internet Access allows torrenting on its servers in 91 countries.

Both VPNs are compatible with top torrenting clients. When I tested them with BitTorrent, uTorrent, and Vuze, I didn’t experience any interruptions or slowdowns while torrenting.

In addition, Surfshark and PIA both allow you to torrent safely. They come with a strict no-logs policy, a kill switch, and malware blockers.

That said, only PIA comes with SOCKS5 proxy support and port forwarding. The latter allows you to connect to more peers so that you can improve your download speeds. And SOCKS5 proxy support changes your IP like a VPN but doesn’t encrypt your traffic — this way, you get much faster download speeds.

Winner (Torrenting): Private Internet Access

Surfshark is good for torrenting, but PIA is simply better. PIA allows torrenting on all of its servers in 91 countries, offers port forwarding, and comes with SOCKS5 support. Both VPNs come with a kill switch and a strict no-logs policy that let you torrent with confidence.

Gaming — Both VPNs Provide a Great Experience

Ping on Local Servers (the Netherlands) Ping on Distant Servers (the US) Lag-Free Gaming Anti-DDoS Protection Router Support Cloud Gaming Support
Surfshark 21–22 ms 130–135 ms
(on nearby servers)
Private Internet Access 18–21 ms 110–120 ms

I had a great gaming experience with both PIA and Surfshark. I experienced low ping while testing both VPNs on local servers. However, I did experience minor lag while connected to Surfshark’s distant servers. Both VPNs come with anti-DDos protection on their servers, meaning that it prevents unscrupulous players from disconnecting you from your matches with DDoS attacks.

In addition, I like that each one offers router support. This allows you to set up the VPN manually on your router, making it work with all the devices connected to your Wi-Fi network — so you’ll be able to use the VPNS to game on devices that don’t work with VPN apps, like gaming consoles.

Winner (Gaming): It’s a tie

I had an excellent gaming experience with Surfshark and PIA. In my tests, the ping was stable on nearby and long-distance servers. In addition, both VPNs offer extra features for gaming such as router support and anti-DDos protection.

Bypassing Censorship — Private Internet Access Is Much Better

Obfuscation Works in ChinaBypassing Censorship — Private Internet Access Is Much Better Works in RussiaBypassing Censorship — Private Internet Access Is Much Better Works in IranBypassing Censorship — Private Internet Access Is Much Better Works in Indonesia Bypassing Censorship — Private Internet Access Is Much Better Works in Saudi Arabia Bypassing Censorship — Private Internet Access Is Much Better
Surfshark
Private Internet Access

Although both VPNs offer obfuscation, only PIA works in restrictive countries like China, Russia, Iran, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia. Surfshark doesn’t work at all in these countries.

PIA offers obfuscation with Shadowsocks, which is an encrypted proxy that is open-source. This proxy will direct your traffic through special servers, encrypting it before it reaches the VPN server. You’ll have to manually turn this feature on in the VPN’s settings.

Winner (Bypassing Censorship): Private Internet Access

Both VPNs have obfuscation, but only PIA works in restrictive countries. So you can use it in places like China, Iran, and Russia.

Apps & Ease of Use — Both VPNs Are User-Friendly

iOS App Android App Windows App macOS App Linux App Smart TV App Router Support Other Apps
Surfshark
(Android TV, Fire TV)
Chromebook
Private Internet Access
(Android TV, Fire TV)
Chromebook

Surfshark and PIA offer native apps for a wide range of devices, including iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Linux, Android TV, and Fire TV. They also support manual router setups.

I like how both VPNs come with really intuitive mobile apps. It’s very simple to navigate them, all settings have helpful explanations, and it doesn’t take more than 4 seconds to find and connect to a server.

Apps & Ease of Use — Both VPNs Are User-Friendly

In addition, both VPNs come with user-friendly and feature-rich desktop apps. Plus, they are easy to install — it only takes 2 minutes at most to download the apps and connect to a server.

Both VPNs also offer router support. This means you can configure the VPN on your router. The process can be difficult, but both VPNs provide helpful step-by-step tutorials, which is great.

Winner (Apps & Ease of Use): It’s a tie

Both Surfshark and PIA have user-friendly apps — they have intuitive interfaces that are easy to navigate. Plus the VPNs’ apps are feature-rich and customizable.

Plans & Pricing — Both Offer Great Value

Starting Price Free Plan Simultaneous Connections Payment Options Money-Back Guarantee
Surfshark $2.19 / month Unlimited credit/debit cards
PayPal
Google Pay
cryptocurrencies
30 days
Private Internet Access $2.03 / month Unlimited credit/debit cards
PayPal
Amazon Pay
cryptocurrencies
30 days

Both Surfshark and PIA are affordable and offer good value. Surfshark allows unlimited simultaneous device connections and comes with a 1-month, 1-year, and 2-year plan. Prices start at $2.19 / month. PIA also allows unlimited connections and comes with a 1-month, 6-month, and 2-year plan, with prices starting at $2.03 / month. Surfshark and PIA accept credit cards, PayPal, and cryptocurrency payments, and each offers a 30-day money-back guarantee with all plans.

Winner (Plans & Pricing): It’s a tie

Both Surfshark and Private Internet Access are affordable options — Surfshark’s plans start at $2.19 / month, whereas PIA’s plans start at $2.03 / month. In addition, both providers offer unlimited connections and come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Customer Support — Both VPNs Have Excellent Customer Support

Live Chat Email Support FAQs Tutorials Troubleshooting Guides Phone Support
Surfshark
Private Internet Access

Surfshark and PIA come with really good customer support. I like that both offer 24/7 live chat support — I generally received helpful answers pretty fast from both providers, though some of PIA’s live chat reps are not that great. Next to that, they also offer email support that will give you a reply within 24 hours. Neither offer phone support, however.

In addition, both providers come with extensive support libraries. These include FAQs, troubleshooting guides, video guides, and setup tutorials.

Winner (Customer Support): It’s a tie

Both Surfshark and PIA offer outstanding customer support — they both have 24/7 live chat, responsive email support, and in-depth support libraries with helpful guides and tutorials.

Overall Winner: Private Internet Access

Both VPNs are a good option, but I prefer using PIA. It maintains superfast speeds, has great torrenting support, and works well in restrictive countries. It also offers user-friendly apps for a variety of devices, allows unlimited connections, and is backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Surfshark also provides good value, as it has a larger server network with servers in 100 countries (PIA only has servers in 91) and offers more extra features. The VPN also comes with easy-to-use apps, unlimited connections, and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

I think that both PIA and Surfshark are great VPNs in 2024 — they both are great for gaming and are easy to use. But PIA is my #1 pick since it provides an overall better value.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Private Internet Access better than Surfshark?

Yes, I prefer to use Private Internet Access. PIA maintains faster speeds, offers better torrenting support, and also works in restrictive regions without any issues. However, Surfshark is better when it comes to extra features, and it was a close match in terms of security and privacy, streaming, ease of use, plans and pricing, and customer support.

Is Private Internet Access faster than Surfshark?

Yes, I had faster speeds with Private Internet Access during my tests. With PIA, I maintained fast speeds on local and distant servers. In addition, websites would load quickly, and I could stream in HD and 4K without buffering. With Surfshark, I experienced more noticeable slowdowns, as 4K videos would usually take around 4 seconds to load.

Which one is better for streaming — Surfshark or Private Internet Access?

Both VPNs are great VPNs for streaming. Our international testing team confirmed they both work with top streaming platforms, including Netflix, Max, and Hulu — the only difference is that Surfshark doesn’t work with Disney+. In addition, Surfshark and PIA both offer a smart DNS, which lets you use the VPNs on devices that don’t support VPN connections, like gaming consoles.

Is Surfshark better for torrenting than Private Internet Access?

No, I prefer Private Internet Access for torrenting. Although both Surfshark and PIA allow torrenting on all their servers, I like PIA more because it comes with port forwarding (allows you to connect to more peers and improve your download speeds) and a SOCKS5 proxy support, which also boosts P2P speeds.

Read more about the best VPNs in 2024

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About the Author
Kristel van Hoof
Updated on: May 24, 2024

About the Author

Kristel van Hoof is a former tech researcher and writer for SafetyDetectives with a keen interest in online privacy and cybersecurity. For more than 3 years now, she has been testing and reviewing VPNs and other products for online data protection. When she’s not writing for Safety Detectives, she's dancing with her kids, traveling around the world, and cooking her favorite dishes.

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