Surfshark and PIA are two of the best VPNs to choose if you are looking for fast connection speeds.
But how do these two VPNs compare in other features like their streaming capabilities and torrenting support?
In this Surfshark vs Private Internet Access comparison today we are going to compare these two VPNs in order to establish the better one overall.
We’ll compare Surfshark with PIA along the lines of their internet speeds, torrenting support, unblocking of content on platforms like Netflix as well as advanced security features like malware bocking.
I hope that by the end of this comparison, you’ll be able to decide the better VPN for you between the two.
So let’s get started.
Surfshark is a VPN service provider located in the British Virgin Islands that enables you to access the internet anonymous and with fast speeds.
Even though it is a relatively young company, they already boast more than 1 million downloads of their Android app on the Google Play Store.
Check out my detailed Surfshark review.
Private Internet Access, on the other hand, is a VPN company with its headquarters in the United States.
It was founded in the year 2010 and currently has their office in Denver, Colorado. Find a detailed Private Internet Access review here.
Which VPN between PIA and Surfshark has more servers?
If a VPN has a lot of servers, it makes it easy to find an appropriate server to connect to in any country of your choice.
This is especially important if most servers are having heavy user loads and so you are looking for a less loaded server for better speeds.
Surfshark currently has a collection of 1,700 servers that are based in 62 different countries.
Its server count is acceptable considering, like I already said, it’s a rather new player in the industry.
PIA, on the flip side, has more than 3,340 servers that are spread out in 45 different countries across the globe.
So while Private Internet Access has more servers in general than Surfshark, Surfshark does a better job of spreading out their servers to cover a wider geographical region.
If you are looking for a server with a wider geographical coverage then I recommend Sufrshark.
Are you looking for a VPN that will enable you to unblock the most streaming platforms?
Most video streaming platforms that you’d want to access have their content restricted to certain geographical regions.
So in order to be able to access content on these platforms, you need to make it look like you are based in these regions. That’s where a VPN comes in as you get to spoof your IP address to make you look like you are based in the country whose content you’d like to stream.
Surfshark has great streaming support as you’ll be able to unblock Netflix in various countries, including the US, UK and Canada.
In addition to Netflix, you can also use Surfshark servers to unblock other streaming platforms like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer.
Private Internet Access, on the other hand, is also able to unblock Netflix libraries for the US, UK and Canada.
However, other streaming platforms like Hulu, Amazon Prime or even iPlayer are blocked for this VPN.
So if you are looking for a VPN that is great for streaming, then Surfshark is the clear winner here as they enable you to stream content on a bigger collection of platforms.
Of what good is Netflix unblocking if the speeds are so slow the videos keep buffering every time?
In order to enjoy a great streaming experience, you need to have fast internet.
So how does Surfshark vs PIA speeds compared?
In order to compare and establish the faster VPN between these two VPNs, I connected to their servers based in the US, UK and Hong Kong. I then measured the download and upload speeds before and after connecting to their servers using speedtest.net.
Here is what I established about their speeds.
Surfshark gave me an average connection speed that was 93% of my before speeds. This gives its speeds a star rating of 4.7/5, which is pretty fast.
PIA, on the other hand, also did a great job and gave me an average connection speed of 94% of my initial speeds. So as you can see, both Surfshark and PIA are very fast VPNs.
In fact, it’s for this reason that they made it into the list of the fastest VPNs for streaming in 2020.
Overall, if you are interested in a VPN that is lightning fast, then either PIA or Surfshark will not let you down.
Will you be able to download torrent files when connected to either Surfshark or Private Internet Access?
First of all, you need to ensure that the VPN you are using supports torrenting on their servers by either the presence of P2P labelled servers or by them mentioning it on their website.
In addition to that, you should also ensure that the VPN you use for torrent downloads does not keep activity logs.
Surfshark, to begin with, supports torrenting as they have dedicated P2P servers to torrenting.
In addition to that, they do not keep logs which makes them a great option for private and anonymous torrenting.
Private Internet Access, however, has better support for torrenting as all their servers are optimized for P2P downloads. So you don’t need to connect to any special P2P server to torrent.
They also state that they do not keep traffic logs.
Overall, I consider Surfshark a better VPN for torrenting as they do have fast speeds and do not keep logs of your IP address.
Let’s now dig a little deeper and look at the privacy policies of both Surfshark and PIA.
We’ll begin by looking at the physical location to see if there is anything to worry about then we’ll look at the clauses of their privacy policies that mention the kind of logs that they keep.
Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands which is a great place to base a privacy friendly VPN company.
I say this because this country does not have any mandatory data retention laws that obligate VPN companies to keep logs. Besides, the BVI is not a founding member of the 14 eyes countries that spy on their citizens and then share their personal information.
Private Internet Access, however, is based in the United States… not a great place for a VPN company.
Even though the US does not have mandatory data retention laws that obligate VPN companies to keep logs yet, they are a founding member of the 5 eyes countries surveillance alliance.
But I find this very vague as they don’t state what logs they keep and what they don’t… all VPNs need some kind of logs to operate.
So if a VPN company keeps that area grey then we can think up a ton of scenarios.
If you are looking for a VPN that has come clean about their no logs policy, then I strongly recommend Surfshark over PIA.
Encryption and Data Collection
How do both Surfshark and Private Internet Access secure your personal data online?
In order to ensure that your personal information cannot be compromised, a VPN uses tamper-proof encryption technologies to encrypt it.
When it comes to encryption technologies, there are algorithms that have proven impossible to crack… so if a VPN is not using these, then they are clearly up to something.
Surfshark uses the AES 256-bit encryption technology that is the most secure protocol among VPNs.
PIA, on the other hand, uses a 128-bit encryption technology that is equally impossible to crack… even though encryption geeks say 256-bit encryption is much stronger than 128.
The flip side of 128-bit encryption is that it is much faster, probably the reason why PIA delivers very fast internet speeds.
When it comes to the connection protocols, Surfshark supports OpenVPN, IKEv2 and Shadowsocks protocols.
PIA, on the other hand, supports a little bit more protocols that Surfshark as you can use OpenVPN, PPTP, L2TP and IPSec. But a protocol like PPTP has proven vulnerable to attacks in the past… though some VPNs still need it to bypass the Great Firewall of China.
That being said I wouldn’t encourage you to use this protocol if you are security conscious.
PIA supports more VPN protocols than Surfshark, though.
Are you looking for a VPN that can block ads on the sites that you visit?
Some video ads are very intrusive and will automatically start playing in the background when you visit a website.
Apart from this being downright annoying, these ads can also exhaust your bandwidth quickly if you are in a metered connection.
How do you turn them off?
If you have a VPN that has an ad blocker then you can turn these ads off and completely block the traffic scripts that these ad networks install on your browser.
At the time of writing this Surfshark vs PIA comparison, I established that both these VPNs have inbuild ad blockers.
Surfshark has a CleanWeb security feature that enables you to block ads and tracking scripts that websites install on your browser when you visit them.
In addition to blocking ads, CleanWeb also protects your device from being infected by malware any time you visit a known malware-infected site.
It has a list of known malware-infected sites in its database and will block these sites before they can do you any harm.
Private Internet Access also has a PIA MACE feature that enables you to block ads. Just like Surfshark, you can also block tracking scripts and malware using the PIA MACE security feature.
So as you can see, PIA and Surfshark square it out when it comes to adblocking.
They are actually among the best VPNs with ad blockers.
If you want to always connect to the internet using the same IP address then you need either a dedicated IP or a static IP address.
This is because the random shared IP addresses that a VPN normally assigns you are deemed to change at any time.
This is not something you want, especially if you are visiting a security-sensitive website that requires additional verification every time you log in with a new IP address.
It also helps you reduce the bad neighbour effect… just in case someone already abused an IP that you are assigned.
Surfshark offers you a free static IP address that you can choose to use if you want to connect to the internet with the same IP address.
You should, however, remember that a static IP is different from a dedicated IP in the sense that while a dedicated IP is assigned solely to you, a static IP can still be shared among other VPN users.
PIA, unfortunately, does not have neither static IPs nor dedicated IPs at the time I was writing this PIA vs Surfshark comparison in 2020.
One thing you should note about dedicated IPs is that since the IP address is only used by you, it is tied to your account and so any activities on these IPs can be traced back to you.
Not great for anonymity online, so for other activities like torrenting stick to shared IPs.
If you want to ensure that you only access the internet via a secure VPN tunnel then I recommend you only choose a VPN with an automatic internet kill switch.
Especially if you run torrent downloads.
This is because any moment that you’ll go online without a VPN, your IP address will be exposed.
A kill switch will prevent this from happening by ensuring that internet access on your device is cut off any time you disconnect from the VPN servers.
It could be when your internet connection drops or when you are switching servers.
Surfshark and PIA both have an automatic internet kill switch that ensures that you are protected at all times.
Once you turn it on, you’ll not be able to access the internet unless you are successfully connected to a VPN server. I always keep my kill switch on whenever I am downloading any torrent files to ensure that my real IP remains hidden the entire time.
If you want to be able to exempt certain applications from your VPN tunnel then you need a VPN split tunnel.
For example, I already mentioned those sensitive apps that require additional verification whenever you try to login with a strange IP address.
It is in scenarios like these that you may want to exempt these apps so that their traffic flows as usual through your ISP, instead of being encrypted and channelled through your VPN tunnel.
Surfshark has a Whitelister that enables you to specify certain apps to be exempted from the VPN tunnel.
Using the Whitelister, you’ll be able to specify certain apps or websites that you want to access without a VPN connection. So the traffic from all other apps will be directed to your VPN except these apps.
PIA also has split tunnelling that enables you to split traffic between your ISP and your VPN tunnel.
Before you jump onto using a split tunnel, you should remember that since the traffic on these whitelisted apps is not channelled through your VPN tunnel, they are not encrypted. So they do not benefit from the additional security that a VPN provides.
In addition to that, since the traffic that flows through these apps is transparent to your internet service provider, you are not anonymous anymore.
So your ISP can actually see the websites that you visit while on these apps.
Overall, I find the split tunnel that Surfshark provides more functional as it enables you to whitelist both the apps and websites.
Works in China?
Let’s now compare Private Internet Access with Surfshark in terms of their ability to bypass the Great Firewall of China.
If you want a VPN that will enable you to access the internet uninterrupted in China, then you should only opt for a VPN that has been tested and proven to work in China.
There is a difference between a VPN claiming to be able to work in China and actually working in China.
In order to bypass the deep packet inspection technology of the great firewall of China, a VPN needs to make its traffic look like normal HTTPS traffic.
Surfshark has a no-borders mode that when turned no, will obfuscate your traffic and make it fly under the radar of China’s firewall.
But you first need to turn on this No Borders mode in the VPN app to activate it.
Private Internet Access, on the other hand, does not have the ability to bypass the great firewall of China. So you won’t be able to access the internet in China using PIA because all their servers are blocked.
Surfshark clearly wins if you are looking for a VPN that will work in China.
As we near the end of this Surfshark vs PIA comparison, let’s look at the various pricing plans to establish the cheaper VPN.
Usually, the longer the plan that you choose the less you should expect to pay per month… bigger discounts are given on longer plans.
So which is the cheaper VPN between Surfshark and PIA?
Surfshark will cost you $ 1.99/month on their 2 years plan… which is also their longest and cheapest plan.
PIA, however, is a little more expensive as it will cost you $ 3.33/month on their 1-year plan… their longest and cheapest plan.
Clearly, if you want to save a couple of bucks in subscription fees then Surfshark is a more budget-friendly VPN than Private Internet Access.
What payment options do you have with either Surfshark or PIA?
Let’s finish this PIA vs Surfshark comparison by looking at the payment methods that each one of them provides.
If you have anonymous payment methods like Bitcoin then I’d suggest you go for them.
Because these payment methods, unlike credit card payments, do not require you to provide your billing address. So you get to give as little information about you as possible.
Surfshark accepts various payment methods, including credit cards, PayPal payments as well as Bitcoins.
PIA is also flexible as it enables you to pay for your subscription with any of the major credit cards, PayPal and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
So if you are looking for a VPN that accepts Bitcoin payments then either Surfshark or PIA is a great option.
So we’ve come to the end of this comparison of Surfshark and PIA VPNs.
I hope this PIA vs Surfshark comparison has helped you learn about the pros and cons of these popular VPN service providers.
Are you now ready to make a choice of the best VPN for your needs?
If I were to choose between PIA and Surfshark, then I will go with Surfshark at any time. It has better streaming capabilities, supports anonymous torrenting and provides static IPs.
And also for the obvious reason that… it’s dirt cheap.
Have you used any of these VPNs before?
Please share your experience in the comments below.