PrivateVPN vs Surfshark

It’s great to see the public at large adopting Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to help keep themselves safe online. However, some VPN providers don’t seem to realize that the people considering their services aren’t computer networking experts. In other words, they’re still relying too heavily on jargon, advanced-sounding technology, and statistics to promote their products.

That’s where we come in. We’ve put PrivateVPN and Surfshark, two extremely popular services, to the test to find out how they compare. More importantly, though, we’ve also explained, point by point, what each of their features actually does. This will let you know exactly what you’re paying for and help give you a better understanding of VPNs in general.

Highlights

PrivateVPN

  • Very fast connections
  • Unblocks stubborn region-locked services with ease
  • Fantastic set of security features
  • No-logs provider that accepts Bitcoin

Surfshark

  • Speedy enough for flawless streaming
  • Works great with geo-blocked platforms like Netflix
  • Strong on security and privacy
  • Secure all of your devices at once

Pricing and discounts

PrivateVPNSurfshark
Subscription periodsOne monthOne month
Three monthsSix months
One yearOne year
Special offerGet an extra year of coverage for free with the annual planGet more than two years of coverage for $59.76
Highest price per month$10.95$12.95
Lowest price per month$1.98$2.21
One-year price$49.68$59.76
Money-back guarantee30 days30 days

There’s just a $2 USD difference between the prices of these services, assuming you’re on a monthly subscription. However, at $10.95 per month, PrivateVPN would be considered one of the least expensive services around, while Surfshark is stuck at the higher end of the pricing spectrum. You can significantly reduce the price by signing up for a longer period of time, though, and given the huge discounts these services offer, it’d almost be silly not to.

Take PrivateVPN, for instance. If you sign up for a year upfront, you’ll get an extra year of coverage for free. This cuts the price to just $49.68 annually (or effectively $2.07 per month), which is a hefty 81 percent discount. Once the two-year period is up, you’ll be charged every year, though, which raises your monthly price to $4.14. Even assuming there are no future promotions that you can take advantage of, this is still a very attractive rate.

Surfshark is currently giving away an extra 15 months of coverage with its annual plans. In other words, you’ll get more than two years of safe browsing for just $59.76. This works out at $2.21 per month. When it comes time to renew, you’ll be billed yearly, though, which means you’ll essentially be paying $4.98 each month. Can’t commit for quite so long? There’s also a 50 percent discount on six-month plans, which drops the price to $38.94 (or $6.49 per month).

PrivateVPN and Surfshark both come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. This means that while an upfront payment is required, you can use either service without restriction for almost a month. It’s completely risk-free since you can cancel for any reason within 30 days to receive a full refund.

Best Deal for PrivateVPN:Get an extra year of coverage free with PrivateVPN’s annual plan.

Best Deal for Surfshark:Cut the cost of your annual Surfshark subscription by over 80%.

Features

PrivateVPNSurfshark
Simultaneous connections6No limit
Operating system appsWindows, Android, iOS, MacOS, LinuxWindows, Linux, MacOS, Android, iOS, Amazon Firestick/ Fire TV
Manual install devicesSelect routersSelect routers
Split tunnelingNoYes
Free extrasStealth modeBuilt-in ad-blocker and malware-scanner. Automatic wifi protection and a NoBorders mode. Browser extensions for Firefox and Chrome. 

Both of these services offer a wide range of apps, allowing you to stay safe across all of your devices. Notably, they each offer a command-line installer for Linux, a platform that many rival providers simply don’t support. There’s also an official app for each in the Amazon app store, so you don’t have to sideload them to unblock foreign streaming services on your Fire TV. That said, Surfshark has browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox, while PrivateVPN doesn’t.

Although PrivateVPN and Surfshark both have a stealth mode, the latter has a far greater range of extra features. There’s a built-in ad-blocker and malware-scanner, for instance, plus a feature that connects you automatically any time you use a public wifi hotspot. You can even use the split tunneling option to let certain websites or apps pass through the VPN without being encrypted. This feature is helpful if you’re traveling and want to access your services from back home without being locked out of regional streaming sites.

The biggest difference between these two services is the connection limit. PrivateVPN users can secure up to six of their devices at once, which is about standard. However, Surfshark lets you connect any number of devices, making it an extremely attractive option for families.

Streaming servicePrivateVPNSurfshark
Netflix10+ libraries including US, UK, Japan, Canada, India, France, and GermanyMultiple libraries including US, UK, Australia, Canada, India, and Japan
HuluYesUS, Japan
Sky GoYesYes
Amazon Prime VideoUS, UKUS, UK
BBC iPlayerYesYes
ABCNoYes
CBSYesYes
NBCYesYes
ITVYesYes
Disney+YesYes
Channel 4YesYes

The table above makes one thing clear: PrivateVPN and Surfshark are both great options for anyone who streams often. For instance, Surfshark was able to unblock every streaming platform we tested it on. This includes notoriously tricky services like Amazon Prime Video, so there’s a good chance it’ll work with any other services you might be thinking of too.

While PrivateVPN couldn’t access ABC, it performs exceptionally well when it comes to unblocking regional Netflix libraries. Further, there’s no need to rely on trial and error when choosing a server, since PrivateVPN specifically tells you which services each server is designed to unblock.

China

The internet is heavily censored in China, with everything from social media networks to sources of unbiased news filtered out by a collection of tools known as the Great Firewall. To make matters worse, access to most VPNs is blocked too, and even if you manually configure one on your device, many simply won’t work. Luckily, you won’t have to rely on local services to stay in touch while traveling, since PrivateVPN and Surfshark both work perfectly in China. 

You should note that before you can start unblocking websites in China, you’ll have to turn on the stealth mode (this is called NoBorders mode in Surfshark). Here’s how:

  • PrivateVPN: Click Advanced view, select the Stealth VPN tab, enable Stealth VPN
  • Surfshark: Navigate to Settings > Advanced and enable the NoBorders option

See also: Best China VPN (59 tested but only 7 work!)

Setup and interface

PrivateVPNSurfshark
Automatic setup wizardWindows, Android, MacOS, iOSWindows, Android, MacOS, Linux, iOS
Main location selectionList-basedList-based
Extra settings pagesYesYes
Mobile-friendlyYesYes

Both services provide simple and easy-to-use apps for desktop computers. PrivateVPN’s desktop app offers two viewing modes: simple and advanced. The simple form looks much cleaner but removes access to the settings menu. In advanced mode, users can freely switch servers, tweak options, and monitor their data usage. The settings are separated into various tabs, which prevents the app from seeming too cluttered.

PrivateVPN app

Surfshark has a fairly standard appearance, with tabs down the left-hand side and a list of recent servers on the main page. Its server list is separated by purpose (general use, static IP, or multi-hop) which is a handy design aspect. However, the settings menu has a couple of submenus, and it can be difficult to remember the location of some options, for example, whether the NoBorders mode is listed under “Features,” “Connectivity,” or “Advanced.”

Surfshark app

On mobile devices, PrivateVPN mimics the look of the simple view from the desktop app. However, this time around, you can actually access the settings. They’re listed on one page and the kill switch is missing, but otherwise, there’s no difference. It’s worth mentioning that users can set up a kill switch using tools built into the operating system.

PrivateVPN mobile app

Surfshark’s mobile app moves the tabs to the bottom of the screen but that’s the only major change. All of its security features remain intact, and in fact, there are a couple of new ones specifically for mobile. These are the ability to override your phone’s GPS location (which would usually require a separate third-party app) and to use smaller data packets (which might help improve performance on mobile networks).

Surfshark mobile app

Servers and performance

PrivateVPNSurfshark
Server countries6063
Total number of servers150+1,700+

PrivateVPN and Surfshark cover a similar number of countries, but there’s a huge difference in terms of their network sizes. This disparity was always significant but has recently become even more pronounced, with Surfshark almost doubling the number of servers on offer.

Despite a much smaller network, PrivateVPN is the faster of the two services. In fact, it’s speedier than most, with an average download speed of 71 Mbps. This was enough to earn it third place in our fastest VPN survey of almost two dozen providers’ speeds. Surfshark, on the other hand, averaged around 40 Mbps. This is still fast enough for most purposes, but you might struggle if several people are using your network at once.

Check the list below to see where PrivateVPN and Surfshark have servers:

 PrivateVPNSurfshark
Albania
Argentina
Australia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Belgium
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brazil
Bulgaria
Canada
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Hong Kong
Hungary
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Ireland
Isle of Man
Israel
Italy
Japan
Kazakhstan
Latvia
Libya
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Macedonia
Malaysia
Malta
Mexico
Moldova
Netherlands
New Zealand
Nigeria
Norway
Panama
Paraguay
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
Qatar
Romania
Russia
Serbia
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia
South Africa
South Korea
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan
Thailand
Turkey
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States
Ukraine
Vietnam

These VPNs are pretty evenly matched in terms of network coverage. That said, they each have a few locations that the other doesn’t; PrivateVPN prioritizes smaller locales like the Isle of Man and Panama, whereas Surfshark tries to reach a larger audience, focusing on places like Nigeria, Paraguay, and Macedonia.

You may have noticed that both services offer servers in Russia and the UAE; locations with strict online censorship and widespread surveillance. However, there’s nothing to worry about with regard to privacy since neither PrivateVPN nor Surfshark keeps any logs. As such, even if the government gained physical access to these servers, there’d be no way of telling what you had been doing online.

Security

PrivateVPNSurfshark
VPN protocolsOpenVPN, PPTP, L2TPOpenVPN, IKEv2, Shadowsocks
OpenVPN data encryptionAES-256 (with 128-bit option)AES-256
OpenVPN control channel encryptionRSA-2048RSA-2048
Cloaking technologyStealth modeNoBorders obfuscation
App securityKill switch (Windows)Kill switch (all platforms)
DNS statusPrivate DNSPrivate DNS

Both PrivateVPN and Surfshark allow you to connect via the OpenVPN protocol, but they each offer alternatives too. For instance, PrivateVPN supports PPTP and L2TP connections. However, we wouldn’t recommend using PPTP as this is an older protocol with several well-documented vulnerabilities. Surfshark, on the other hand, supports IKEv2, Shadowsocks, and Wireguard connections. Of these, Wireguard is the newest, and is widely expected to become the next industry standard. At the moment though, only a handful of major VPN providers offer Wireguard support.

These services are fairly similar when it comes to security. They both use 256-bit AES encryption, although PrivateVPN allows you to reduce this to 128 bits, which should increase your browsing speeds slightly. Surfshark doesn’t provide this functionality, but it does include a kill switch in all of its apps, whereas PrivateVPN only has this in the Windows version.

Additionally, PrivateVPN and Surfshark both have their own stealth mode capable of bypassing deep packet inspection. This will allow you to browse safely and unblock censored websites, wherever you are in the world.

Privacy

PrivateVPNSurfshark
HQ baseSwedenBritish Virgin Islands
Connection logsNoneSome but no identifiable data
Activity logsNoneNone
User details for signupEmail addressEmail address
Anonymous payment optionsBitcoinBitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple

Neither of these providers stores any information that could be used to identify you. In fact, PrivateVPN keeps no logs at all. Surfshark does store some data (such as your frequency of use and details of any unsuccessful login attempts), but this is only for diagnostic purposes.

You’ll be able to sign up anonymously, whichever VPN you choose, too. That’s because they each accept Bitcoin payments and allow you to sign up with just an email address. If you’d prefer, you can even pay for Surfshark with Ripple or Ethereum.

Configuration

PrivateVPNSurfshark
Address allocationSharedShared
Dedicated IP address possibleNo, but static IP servers availableNo, although static IP servers are available
NAT firewallNoNo

These VPNs both use a shared address allocation system, which means that anyone connected to a specific server will share a single IP address. This helps obscure your activities since there’s effectively multiple people’s traffic originating from one address, making it almost impossible to tell who actually accessed what.

Neither service allows you to obtain your own dedicated IP address. PrivateVPN offers dedicated IP servers, but these are misnamed; other people have access to them, so they’re just static IP servers. To its credit, it has static IP servers in 16 countries, while Surfshark only provides this option on select servers in Germany, Japan, Singapore, the UK, and the US.

Customer service

PrivateVPNSurfshark
Live chatYes (LiveAgent)Yes (Zendesk)
Ticket supportYesYes
Email supportYesYes
Average email response time6 minutes1 hour, 48 minutes
Phone supportNoNo
Searchable knowledge baseYesYes
Video guidesYesYes

Regardless of which VPN you choose, help is never too far away. You can search for answers to common problems in the knowledge base, and there are even short video guides on each provider’s YouTube channels. Surfshark has a slight advantage here, since its support team runs a 24/7 live chat service. PrivateVPN’s live chat service, on the other hand, goes offline for a couple of hours each day.

Let’s say you have a problem but can’t access live chat. Perhaps the service’s website is under maintenance, for instance, or you’re in China and only have access to a limited range of content. In these cases, you can just contact support over email. To gauge each service’s responsiveness, we asked them three questions and measured the amount of time it took for them to reply. Here are the results:

PrivateVPN
Question Initial response timeNumber of emailsQuestion answered
What kind of speed reduction can I expect when connected?4 minutes1Yes
How do I install this VPN on my router?3 minutes1Yes
Does this service work in China?11 minutes1Yes
Surfshark
Question Initial response timeNumber of emailsQuestion answered
What kind of speed reduction can I expect when connected?2 hours, 31 minutes1Yes
How do I install this VPN on my router?1 hour, 52 minutes1Yes
Does this service work in China?1 hour, 1 minute1Yes

As you can see, PrivateVPN was extremely quick to reply, with an average response time of just six minutes. Obviously this will fluctuate based on their current workload, but PrivateVPN has consistently achieved very low response times the last few times we’ve run this test. Its answers tended to be a blend of personalized and pre-written text, and users were encouraged to reply with any further questions they might have. Surfshark took a little longer to respond, but usually provided a more detailed answer, particularly if your question was technical in nature. Both providers included links to their support articles, too, so even if they didn’t quite answer your question, there was always something else you could read that might help.

The winner: Surfshark

Apps Available:

  • PC
  • Mac
  • IOS
  • Android
  • Linux

Website:  www.Surfshark.com

Money-back guarantee: 30 DAYS

There shouldn’t be any doubt: both PrivateVPN and Surfshark are high-quality, low-cost services with plenty to offer. PrivateVPN, for instance, is among the fastest VPNs we’ve tested, and unblocks a huge range of geo-restricted content abroad. That said, Surfshark has an edge in a few key areas, making it the better choice for most people.

First, Surfshark has taken steps to stay up-to-date on security. It no longer supports insecure protocols and was among the first to add Wireguard support. It also offers a kill switch in every version of the app and allows you to connect all of your devices simultaneously, meaning you never have to worry about browsing insecurely again. With solid speeds, impressive unblocking ability, and over 3,000 servers to choose from, Surfshark is an excellent choice for a range of online activities.

Best Deal for PrivateVPN:Get an extra year of coverage free with PrivateVPN’s annual plan.

Best Deal for Surfshark:Cut the cost of your annual Surfshark subscription by over 80%.

See also: