Hitting the market in 2018, relative virtual private network newbie Surfshark is moving fast to establish itself as a competitive VPN option against its older and more readily recognized peers. At lower costs, the up-and-comer VPN boasts impressive speeds despite having a smaller server fleet than NordVPN or ExpressVPN. It also has more configurable privacy add-ons than reputable services such as IPVanish.
- Doorbuster pricing
- Multihop VPN
- Competitive speeds
- Still a newcomer
- Fewer servers than larger VPNs
I recommend Surfshark for its rich suite of security-focused features, its privacy-inclined jurisdiction and its competitive speeds.
- Average speed loss: 27%
- Number of servers: 1,000
- Number of server locations: 60 countries
- Optional static IP addresses available
I ran my speed tests over the course of three days with dynamic IP addresses, in two locations, using both wireless and ethernet connections -- one location offered slower broadband speeds, and the other offered higher speeds via fiber-optic internet. Internet speeds in the US vary widely by state and provider. And with any speed test, results are going to rely on your local infrastructure, with hyperfast internet service yielding higher test speed results.
That's one reason I'm more interested in testing the amount of speed lost (which for most VPNs is typically half or more) across both high-speed and slower connection types, and in using tools like speedtest.net to even out the playing field. In the case of Surfshark, only 27% of average internet speeds were lost.
Surfshark's fast speeds during testing pushed the service immediately past NordVPN's and Norton Secure VPN's tested speeds (which averaged 32% speed loss and 57% speed loss, respectively), and into competition with the likes of other speed-intensive VPNs such as ExpressVPN and IPVanish. This is particularly impressive given the small size of Surfshark's server fleet.
Peak speed was reached on London servers at 46.02 Mbps during a testing round, with non-VPN speeds in the mid-40s. UK servers ranked fastest overall among the tests, with average download speeds of 28 Mbps compared to my overall non-VPN average speeds of 36 Mbps.
US servers in New York came in at a close second place with about 27 Mbps, topping out at 46.55 Mbps. Surfshark's Singapore servers, fast but inconsistent, beat those in Australia and Europe to take third place. Among tests conducted on both French and German servers, the strongest speeds were regularly marked in Paris. Berlin's scores dragged the European tests into last place, behind Australian servers, which held steady throughout each round.
Security and privacy
- Jurisdiction: British Virgin Islands
- Encryption: AES-256-GCM, RSA-2048, Perfect Forward Secrecy
- No leaks detected
- Includes kill switch
I like that Surfshark is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, which is generally considered a privacy-friendly country due to its lack of surveillance-sharing agreements with other countries. Although it's a territory of the United Kingdom, the British Virgin Islands is a separate legal jurisdiction to the UK with no data-retention laws. And its national High Court is historically averse to extra-national business record requests.
Its encryption is standard AES-256-GCM, and it supports Perfect Forward Secrecy, which means it frequently changes encryption keys to avoid security compromises. The company offers a useful kill switch feature, which prevents network data from leaking outside of their secure VPN tunnel in the event the VPN connection fails. Surfshark's browser add-ons for Chrome and Firefox have also been independently audited by security research firm Cure 53.
No IP address, DNS or other potentially user-identifying data leaks were detected during my testing. I didn't detect any WebRTC leaks, which are common among VPNs due to more widespread and well-known browser issues, either. Even if you don't need it, it's noteworthy that Surfshark offers a specific browser plug-in to prevent additional WebRTC leaks.
If you're concerned about DNS privacy on mobile, Surfshark also offers a standalone app Trust DNS from the Google Play Store. In the simplest terms, it reroutes the website information requests from your browser and sends them to Surfshark instead of your internet service provider. Rerouting DNS information in this way could help you get past censorship walls and keep your telecom company out of your business.
What makes Surfshark stand out from other services we've recently reviewed at CNET? It offers a multihop VPN. For an added layer of protection, you can tell Surfshark to send your internet traffic through servers in two countries instead of just one. Multihop VPNs can be particularly useful in preventing your information from being identified if a security breach happens at one of the VPN's own data centers.
- Usability: Intuitive and fresh
- Platforms: Linux, Windows, Android, MacOS, iOS, Android TV and Amazon Fire TV
- Price: $2 monthly for a two-year plan
- Number of simultaneous connections: Unlimited
Surfshark imposes no data caps, and allows unlimited server switching and torrenting. I also had no problems using it to access Netflix. In a rare move for a VPN, it offers unlimited simultaneous connections. This functionality is wrapped up in an intuitive, easy-to-use interface that's recently undergone a slick revamp.
I'm delighted to see lots of optional add-on features you wouldn't normally expect from a low-cost VPN provider. CleanWeb, an ad-blocking anti-tracking feature, is available for all accounts. For a dollar more a month, you can opt to get Blindsearch, Surfshark's nonlogging private search engine, and Hacklock, a tool that constantly searches the internet to see if your email address has been affected by a data breach.
Surfshark is currently living up to its name with an aggressive pricing scheme. Right now, it's offering an 83% discount, bringing costs down to $2 monthly for a two-year plan ($48 in total). That offer stands up easily to NordVPN's two-year plan at $5 a month ($120 in total), and IPVanish's one-year plan at $4 per month ($48 a year). On its 12-month plan, Surfshark is offering a 50% discount at $6 monthly ($72 a year).
Along with credit or debit, you can pay via PayPal, Alipay or Bitcoin and be assured of a 30-day money-back guarantee. The site offers 24/7 chat support, and a healthy amount of support articles and tutorials.
Surfshark has been creating quite a buzz on the VPN scene over the past few years, giving some of its larger top-rated competitors a run for their money. Unlike many other VPN providers, Surfshark isn’t one for grand claims. It bases its sales pitch on privacy and security.
So how does this VPN really compare to the industry giants like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and CyberGhost? Does it offer a similar experience or does it fall short?
In my 2020 Surfshark review, I tested out desktop and mobile apps to see how this provider measures up. Here are some of the questions I wanted to answer:
- Is Surfshark fast?
- Can Surfshark unblock Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and other geo-restricted sites and apps?
- Is Surfshark secure and private?
- Will Surfshark work in China?
In this review, you’ll find the answers to those questions and many more.
I’ve been using Surfshark to stream, browse, torrent, play online games, and access public wifi. Below is a quick summary of my experience, but you can read on to find out more about why this VPN is increasingly popular.
Surfshark is a lightweight VPN that comes with an expansive suite of features. It’s secure and private and offers excellent customer service. Surfshark enables you to unblock a huge number of restricted apps and sites and works well in China. There’s no connection limit, which is a huge bonus these days.
Surfshark can be fast, but speeds may be inconsistent, so you might need to be selective with servers, for example, when torrenting large files. If you’re mainly looking for a solid VPN for streaming and browsing, Surfshark has enough perks to make it worth your money.
Surfshark key data
|OVERALL RANK: #6 of 42 VPNs|
|Average Speed *:||40 Mbps|
|Video Streaming Support:||4K, HD video conferencing|
|Other Streaming Services:||Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, BBC iPlayer|
|Encryption Type:||256-bit AES|
|Log Policy:||No logs|
|Protocols:||OpenVPN, IKEv2, Shawdowsocks|
|Value for Money||
|Lowest Monthly Cost:||$1.99|
|Money Back Guarantee:||30 days|
How does Surfshark compare to other popular VPNs?
Comparing VPNs side-by-side can give a good indication of the caliber of provider you’re looking at. Here’s how Surfshark compares to two top-rated providers, ExpressVPN and NordVPN. You can find out more about these two in our in-depth comparison.
Surfshark pros and cons
Here’s a summary of the things Surfshark gets right and where improvements could be made:
- Unblocks Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer
- Kill switch in all apps
- Solid speeds on nearby servers
- 24/7 live chat
- Works in China
- No logs
- Unlimited devices
- Allows P2P
- Some slow speeds
- Smaller network than top competitors
I’ll delve into more detail on each of these points below.
Speed: Is Surfshark fast?
Surfshark fared okay in speed tests. I was able to watch 4K video and use HD video conferencing while connected to nearby servers. When testing various versions of Netflix, I did notice the quality was low at the start for some, but it improved within a minute or so. I was able to play online games with no issues while connected to each of the test servers.
Since launch, Surfshark has been ramping up its server count pretty fast. Its network has now expanded to more than 1,700 servers covering over 60 countries. This is a smaller operation than those of rivals like ExpressVPN and NordVPN, but it’s larger than the industry average.
We tested Surfshark server locations at three different times during the day. The average speed across all tests was 40 Mbps. This puts it roughly in the middle of the group as compared to other VPNs we’ve tested.
The server locations were in North America, Asia, and Europe. Here are the average speeds:
- North America: 62 Mbps
- Asia: 19 Mbps
- Europe: 40 Mbps
For nearby servers, Surfshark gives consistently good speeds. Things seem to be a bit hit and miss once you start connecting to servers farther away.
It’s worth noting that these tests aren’t definitive and only offer a general indicator as to the type of performance you might see in practice. The internet is inherently volatile which adds a randomness factor to speed test results. Depending on your base internet speed, you may see larger discrepancies in speeds when connected to the VPN.
Apps: What devices work with Surfshark?
One of the biggest perks of this service is the ability to connect as many devices as I want to the VPN at a given time. Most providers restrict connections to between five and 10. This might seem like a lot, but these days, the number of devices a family is using could quite easily surpass that limit.
So which operating systems does Surfshark work with? Apps are available for the following:
- Windows 7 and newer
- MacOS 10.12 or newer
- iOS 9.0 or newer
- Android 5.0 or newer
- Linux Ubuntu and Debian
- Amazon Fire TV
Multi-language browser extensions are available for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, though bear in mind these will only protect browser traffic and not your entire device. Surfshark can be manually installed on compatible home routers if you want to protect all your devices.
Surfshark’s new and improved apps are lightweight so they should work with low-end devices. I find them a bit more intuitive than the older versions.
The server list is displayed when you launch the app. You can connect to the fastest server, a server in the nearest country, or select a country of your choice. Countries are listed in alphabetical order. There’s a search function and I can add locations to a favorites list by clicking the star to the right of the location. You can see a rough indication of the total load on a location’s servers by looking at the circle to the right of the location name.
Notably, there’s a separate list for MultiHop (double VPN) servers, which is far more extensive than you’ll see for most other VPNs that offer this feature.
You’ll also find a list of static IP servers for several countries, including Japan, Germany, and the US. This option enables you to connect to the same server each time (instead of being assigned one at random), which is handy if you’d like to keep the same IP address. This is available on the Windows and Android apps.
You can change the overall aesthetic of the app to a darker version by enabling dark mode.
Other options include:
- Invisible to devices: This feature is available on Windows and Android and will make your device invisible to other devices on your Local Area Network (LAN).
- Whitelister: This is Surfshark’s version of split tunneling and can be used to send select traffic through a normal connection instead of the VPN. You can also do the reverse and only send select traffic through a normal connection. It’s available on the Windows and Android apps.
- CleanWeb: A feature that block ads, trackers, and malware
- BlindSearch: This is a private search tool that works similarly to DuckDuckGo and StartPage.
- HackLock: A data leak alert system that will let you know if your email addresses or passwords have been involved in a breach.
There are several more features including the kill switch, protocol options, and NoBorders mode which I’ll go into later.
The mobile app is very similar to the desktop version so switching between them is a breeze. The feature roster varies slightly from app to app, but the mobile versions offer more than you’d find in many rival VPN apps.
Streaming, Netflix, and Kodi
Does Surfshark unblock Netflix?
Yes, Surfshark unblocks multiple Netflix libraries including Netflix US, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan, India, Singapore, France, Germany, Italy, and a few others. If it can’t connect you to the library that corresponds to the server you’re connected to, it will redirect you to US Netflix.
Surfshark also works with Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, ITV Hub, All 4, Hotstar, HBO, Sky, and many other local streaming services.
Overall, Surfshark is one of the best services out there when it comes to unblocking region-locked content.
The VPN works with most devices that run Kodi and is compatible with Kodi addons.
Does Surfshark allow torrenting?
Yes, Surfshark allows torrenting.
Data is unlimited, P2P is allowed, and Surfshark operates using a true no-logs policy. When you start running a P2P app while connected to the VPN, Surfshark will automatically connect you to a special P2P server (the closest one available).
There is also a split tunneling feature which allows you to choose which traffic goes through the VPN. This is handy if you want to use the VPN for torrenting while using a regular connection for other activities.
In addition, all Surfshark apps have a built-in kill switch which will force my internet connection to drop if the VPN connection drops unexpectedly. Note that the kill switch is disabled by default but you can toggle it on in the app settings.
Security, privacy, and logging
On the surface, Surfshark’s security features look fairly standard in comparison to other major VPN providers. It uses 256-bit AES encryption, which is as good as it gets. This is in conjunction with a SHA512 authentication hash and 2048-bit DHE-RSA key exchange, along with perfect forward secrecy.
OpenVPN is enabled by default on the desktop apps, while IKEv2 is the default for mobile. Shadowsocks encryption is an additional option for Windows and Android users, in case the other protocols cannot be established.
Surfshark includes a kill switch that can be toggled on and off within the apps. This will prevent you from browsing unprotected should the VPN connection drop.
Apps come with the following features that you won’t often find on other VPNs:
- MultiHop servers: Double VPN servers can add an extra layer of security and Surfshark has lots of options to choose from.
- NoBorders mode: This will enable you to use the VPN in restrictive regions such as China.
- Auto-connect: When enabled, the VPN will establish a connection as soon as your device is connected to the internet. This is particularly useful if you want to ensure you’re always protected when using public wifi.
- Private DNS servers: This provider uses private DNS servers instead of public ones, so you don’t need to worry about the likes of Google seeing your DNS requests.
- ChaCha encryption: Android users can opt for ChaCha encryption which often performs better on mobile devices.
- Leak protection: I found no evidence of IP, DNS, or WebRTC leaks when connected to Surfshark. This means third parties won’t be able to see my real IP address.
Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands, which happens to be home to top-rated provider ExpressVPN. In fact, it’s no coincidence that they’re both based here and it’s clear that the two companies recognize the advantages of being located in a country where the government doesn’t require any data retention or reporting.
This means that even if the company was forced to hand over data, there would be no personally identifiable information to give. You are required to provide an email address upon signup, which is stored, but if you use a burner email and pay using cryptocurrency, there would be almost no trace of you having signed up at all.
Does Surfshark work in China?
Yes, Surfshark works in China.
Surfshark has recently added a large number of additional servers. One of the major reasons for this is to provide as many IP addresses as possible to help defend against China’s blocking process. Surfshark has dedicated testers in China who can confirm if all is well or if there are any issues.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for VPN providers to evade the Great Firewall of China and few are able to do it reliably. Many will come right out and say that’s it too difficult and they’ve all but given up, whereas you have others, like Surfshark, who keep fighting to offer access to the free web.
Is Surfshark customer service any good?
Navigating to the Help section on Surfshark’s website, you’ll find a decent amount of information to help you get started with the service. There are various setup guides, including manual connection guides, router tutorials, and extension and app guides. In addition, some FAQs are answered.
Most of what you need should be there, but if not, 24/7 live chat is available to help. I used this service a handful of times and received courteous and prompt responses that helped resolve my issues and answer questions.
The live chat feature is outsourced to Zendesk, so those looking for the utmost privacy may want to use the email form. This seems to be well manned and I got a response to my query in under an hour.
Surfshark has one plan, but offers discounts depending on your subscription length:
- One month for $11.95 per month
- Six months for $5.99 per month
- Two years for $1.99 per month
The two-year option offers great value for money with savings of 83 percent.
Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans which should give you ample time to decide if it’s the right service for you. Alternatively, if you sign up via the Google Play Store or Apple App Store, you can get a free seven-day trial.
Surkshark accepts a range of payment methods, including major credit and debit cards, PayPal, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, Coingate, Alipay, and many country-specific payment methods. The ability to pay with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will be welcome news to more privacy-conscious users.
Here’s the latest and only Surfshark Coupon
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Do I recommend Surfshark?
It turns out that Surfshark is very deserving of all the buzz and this provider has a lot going for it. It offers a reliable service and takes privacy and security very seriously. Plus, it’s great for streaming and even works in China. An unlimited number of simultaneous connections may be the tipper for some users.
The only small downside to Surfshark’s service is its inconsistent speeds on geographically distant servers. This might be a turnoff to those looking to download large files or stream on multiple devices at once while connected to faraway servers.
If you’re looking for the fastest VPN available, then you might want to consider ExpressVPN. This blows many of its competitors out of the water when it comes to speeds and it performs well in other areas. It’s great for unblocking geo-restricted streaming sites and can help you access the free web in China.
ExpressVPN has servers in 94 countries, far more than most other providers. Plus, it boasts excellent security and top-notch customer support. It’s also a great option if you’re planning to install a VPN on your home router as it comes with its own custom firmware. ExpressVPN is a bit pricier than Surfshark but it may be worth it for some users.
Surfshark in brief:
- P2P allowed: Yes
- Business location: British Virgin Islands
- Number of servers: 800+
- Number of country locations: 49*
- Cost: $72 (billed annually)
- VPN protocol: IKEv2/OpenVPN
- Data encryption: AES-256-CBC/AES-256-GCM
- Data authentication: HMAC-SHA256-128/SHA-512
- Handshake: Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman 384
A lot of people want to secure their connection with a VPN these days, but that presents a convenience problem: no Netflix. There are a number of VPNs that work with Netflix, but Surfshark goes beyond compatibility with just the typical U.S. and U.K. to include another nine countries: Australia, Canada, German, France, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and South Korea.
Surfshark, officially based in the British Virgin Islands with most of its workforce living across Europe, is a relative newcomer to the VPN space. We recently took a look at what this service is like on macOS, and now it’s time to try it out on Windows 10.
Features and services
Surfshark with an active connection.
Surfshark offers a pretty standard looking Windows app, with a left rail for navigation options. The primary dashboard features a connected/not connected indicator, as well as a list of your most recent country connections.
The Locations menu option offers four different types of connections. The first are physical servers, meaning they are located in the actual country indicated. These servers also show quick-connect options for the fastest server based on your location, or a server from a neighboring country. The next tab houses virtual server locations, which means the servers are not physically located in the country they claim to be. Companies usually do this to provide locations that have poor physical infrastructure, or places where the company doesn’t have a business relationship.
After virtual server locations, there are a number of P2P server options, and then several double-hop VPN connections to obfuscate your actual location even further. Surfshark calls this latter option “Multi-Hop,” with 13 different predetermined double-hops including United States to France, France to Sweden, and Netherlands to the United States.
Surfshark also has an ad, tracker, and malware blocker called CleanWeb that is not turned on by default. Finally there’s Whitelister, which is a split-tunneling feature. Whitelister has options for allowing apps and websites to connect outside of the VPN.
Surfshark’s CleanWeb setting.
The only other feature to speak of is something called NoBorders, which is enabled by default and designed to get past national firewalls in restrictive countries.
Overall it’s a nicely designed app that’s easy to navigate, with a host of options. The only quibble I have is in the location section. Here, you can click on the far-right side of each country connection to see more granular region options. In the United States, for example, you can choose between server locations on the East Coast, Midwest, Southwest, and West Coast. It would be nice if these granular options offered ping times or server load indicators to give power users a better idea of which server location they’d like to use.
As for the Netflix promises, I didn’t test every single option, but on the spot checks I did, all the options worked with Netflix.
Surfshark charges $72 per year for its service, which is a little on the high side but you get unlimited simultaneous device connections. At this writing the company was also selling a two-year commitment for $48 ($2 per month), which is a fantastic deal. Surfshark’s month-to-month price, like most VPN services, is not worth is at $12 per month. Unless you need a guaranteed Netflix connection, you’re better off with Mullvad, which charges €5 (around $6.35) per month.
Surfshark’s country locations.
Based on our tests, Surfshark maintained about 35 percent of the base speed across three different testing periods over five locations worldwide. That’s pretty good, and while it doesn’t hit the upper tier of speed demons that we’ve seen on Windows, it’s still very capable.
Speeds were excellent in the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Your experience may vary depending on your location and ISP.
Privacy, anonymity, and trust
Surfshark says it does not collect any of your online activity, including browsing history, session information, bandwidth used, connection time stamps, network traffic, or IP addresses. To use Surfshark you need to supply an email address.
The company accepts payment via credit cards, PayPal, Google Pay, or cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple.
Surfshark after a fresh install on Windows.
As we mentioned earlier, Surfshark is officially based in the British Virgin Islands, but as with many VPN companies, the staff is scattered throughout Europe and other places around the world. The CEO is Par Kaz, and the CTO is Magnus Steinberg.
Surfshark offers good speeds, compatibility with Netflix, and a solid number of country connections. The Windows app is well designed and easy enough to understand. I wouldn’t exactly say it’s perfect for newbies, but it’s not overly complicated either. The fact that it offers unlimited simultaneous device connections is great, and very unusual. It also works with Netflix, which is a big plus for global travelers or anyone who’d prefer to keep their connection encrypted 24/7. Overall, Surfshark’s a good choice for VPN users interested in casual browsing and streaming.
* Surfshark uses virtual servers, meaning a number of its country locations are not physically located where they appear to be. These locations are clearly marked in the app.
Editor’s note: Because online services are often iterative, gaining new features and performance improvements over time, this review is subject to change in order to accurately reflect the current state of the service. Any changes to text or our final review verdict will be noted at the top of this article.
Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Surfshark is a newcomer to the world of VPNs, offering good speeds, a nice Windows app, and a fair number of country locations. It also offers extra features such as double-hop connections, and compatibility with Netflix in 11 countries. We'd like to see a slightly better price, but overall it offers pretty good value.
- Unlimited simultaneous device connections
- Works with Netflix in 11 countries
- Labels virtual server locations
- Built-in ad, tracker, and malware blocking
- Exotic business address
- No ping or server load indicators
Ian is an independent writer based in Israel who has never met a tech subject he didn't like. He primarily covers Windows, PC and gaming hardware, video and music streaming services, social networks, and browsers. When he's not covering the news he's working on how-to tips for PC users, or tuning his eGPU setup.
Why choose Surfshark VPN
For high-speed performance and plenty of features, without the high price, this could be the best VPN for you.
iPhone & iPad
Best VPN for
Netflix, Hulu, and streaming
Torrenting and downloading
Security and privacy
- Super affordable
- Great connection speeds
- Netflix unblocking
- Superb security
A full featured and high-speed VPN doesn't have to be expensive. Surfshark proves that point perfectly by offering one of the best services out there for nearly half the price of the competition.
Surfshark VPN is a relatively new service compared to some other options out there, but what it lacks in age it makes up for in features. From tight security and privacy to feature-rich apps and the ability to unblock Netflix – this packs in everything most people look for in a VPN. It's one of the best Android VPNs available right now.
With over 1,040 servers spread across 160 locations worldwide this is a super capable VPN that's perfect for anyone travelling. But with AES-256 level encryption it's also just right for anyone looking for a VPN to keep themselves anonymous and secure at home – or anywhere else for that matter.
So is this the VPN for you? Read on to find out everything you need to know about Surfshark VPN.
Pricing and plans
Surfshark keeps it nice and simple when it comes to pricing options with three tiers to pick from. These are time based, with monthly, annual or two year plans which go down in price based on how long you commit for.
The monthly option is the most open, allowing you to pay month-to-month with no commitment. As such this is the most expensive, usually priced at around $11.95. Jump up to a year, paid in one lump sum, and you get a big reduction that equates to $5.99 per month.
But the best plan, which gives you one of the most affordable VPN prices of any out there right now, is the two year plan. Pay this sum up front and it works out at just $1.99 per month. That's a saving of a massive 83 percent compared to the monthly payment option.
Testing and performance
Despite being a budget VPN you can rely on Surfshark to offer some really great speeds, according to our testing. On a reliability level we found no connection failures and connection times that are faster than average plus all servers returned IP addresses for their advertised locations. So all ticks then.
When it came to performance speeds, we tested in the US using a 600Mbps connection. On the whole results were consistent denoting a reliable performance. Speeds averaged 150Mbps, which could have been our ISP affecting that to be fair. The lowest speed we got, across 40 test locations, was 119Mbps – still plenty fast then.
Over in the UK the line tested was 75Mbps and we got an impressive average of around 68Mbps meaning very little bandwidth was lost due to Surfshark.
Server locations affect speeds so if you're after pure performance, a bit of testing various servers could help you perfect your connection for the ultimate speed result.
One of the big features for VPNs these days is Netflix unblocking and Surfshark specifically advertising this is something its service offers. In fact it even names 14 countries where it can do this, including the U.S., France, Japan, Australia, Italy and more.
Aside from Netflix you can enjoy geo restriction unblocking for the likes of YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and even the often challenging BBC iPlayer. The only one that presented issues here was Amazon Prime Video, which did work for going abroad and accessing home country content, but blocked accessing other countries' content when using your account setup at home.
Getting online in countries that otherwise block VPNs is an option here thanks to a service called NoBorders mode. This, presumably through obfuscating your traffic, gets you around any blocks to go online – ideal for China and Iran then.
A Whitelister panel is a nice touch that allows you to select applications, websites and IP addresses that can bypass the VPN. This is great if you want to access your banking app without setting off alarms about you being out of the country, for example.
The CleanWeb feature works well to block ads, any trackers and links that could be malicious to help keep your online experience as clear as possible.
The mobile apps allow you to select a "use small packets" option which is able to improve performance on some networks which could help speeds while also saving you money on data use.
Support is another great feature, with 24/7 live chat available wherever you are. This is a great way to get online if you're having issues, or find the right server to unblock something like a media player. While there are lots of details on the company's website that can help, it's nice to have a human waiting to help, should you get stuck.
Privacy and security
Surfshark uses the enterprise level AES-256 encryption meaning all your data is kept locked so even if it were compromised it would remain unintelligible. Not that it should be at risk thanks to a kill switch, keeping you safe if your connection drops, and a double hop VPN. That means your address is even more secure, should you activate this feature, making you highly anonymous and difficult to track.
There are some of the best modern security protocol options including OpenVPN UDP and TCP plus IKEv2. Plus the company is based in the British Virgin Islands meaning no logging is required. The fact that each server has its own private DNS is yet another layer of security to set your mind at ease.
A third party test of Surfshark by German security firm Cure53 led it to conclude that it was: "highly satisfied to see such a strong security posture on the Surfshark VPN extensions, especially given the common vulnerability of similar products to privacy issues."
Should you sign up?
If you want to save a packet on a really decent VPN that offers lots of features, then Surfshark could be for you. Presuming you're ok with paying that two year up front cost then you can get this cheaper than most other VPNs, without sacrificing quality, speed, security or reliability. In fact, this budget VPN is above average and beats a lot of the more expensive services with its offerings.
Features like unlimited device use make this a genuine option for use across all your gadgets. You could, conceivably, even split the cost with someone and share this impressive and comprehensive VPN service. Looking for other VPN deals? We have you covered there as well!
Is Surfshark really “eating other VPN deals alive” as they say? In this Surfshark review, I’ll see if they’ve got what it takes for them to live up to that slogan or if they’ll be swallowed by the competition.
Surfshark has a no-log policy, kill-switch feature, as well as a camouflage mode to make your internet browsing activity look normal to your internet provider. This VPN offers top features you would want out of a reliable, secure, and easy-to-use VPN.
As a newer VPN, it seems to be one of the cheapest on the market at just $1.99 USD per month if you sign up for a 24-month package. Along with unlimited device usage and 15 Netflix libraries, you might wonder why their price is so good, especially with three months free.
Let’s dive in to see if Surfshark really is at the top of the food chain in the VPN world.
|OVERALL RANK:||#2 out of 78 VPNs|
|USABILITY:||Very Easy To Use|
|LOG FILES:||Strict No Logging Policy|
|LOCATIONS:||61+ countries, 1040+ servers|
|SUPPORT:||Live Chat (24/7)|
|TORRENTING:||P2P & Torrenting Allowed|
|NETFLIX:||Unblocks Netflix USA|
|ENCRYPTION/PROTOCOL:||256-bit AES/OpenVPN, IPSec & IKEv2|
Surfshark VPN Pros
1. Surfshark Is Quick and Easy to Use
For any new VPN user, Surfshark is simple to install and activate. By following the steps below, you’ll see that the setup process is user-friendly and quick. As a brand-new user, you’ll be prompted to create an account or log in with an existing one before installing Surfshark.
Once installed, Surfshark walks you through the setup process. I’ve listed each step for you below, although I truly think a beginner would feel comfortable installing and activating Surfshark on their own.
Select your preferred language.
Select where you would like the software to be stored on your disk. Remember, the install requires 32MB of free space, so be sure that this is available before you begin.
Run the downloaded software to complete the installation and begin activation.
One pro of Surfshark VPN is that their software is very small, sleek, and simple to use.
The interface is extremely user-friendly and can be minimized even further with what they call the “mini mode,” as you’ll see in the screenshot below.
Using Surfshark Once Installed
Once you have successfully installed Surfshark, simply click “connect” to connect to the fastest server available:
With Surfshark’s CleanWeb built-in adblocker feature, you won’t have to worry about malware or phishing attempts. Combine that with a pleasant and uninterrupted browsing experience that doesn’t slow down your bandwidth. No more annoying ads or pop-ups, but most importantly, you’re protected from any attempts to gain access to your information and tracking.
To automatically detect malware, Surfshark consistently updates their database of malware-infected websites and prevents you from accessing them. At the time of my research, they had detected over 1 million infected sites, but rest assured that you’re protected with their VPN and CleanWeb feature.
The CleanWeb feature is available on Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS.
With Whitelister, you can split-tunnel your VPN to personalize your browsing experience. You can set certain sites and IP addresses to bypass the VPN completely by creating a “white list.” This allows you to control the privacy and security of the websites you truly need protection for, while allowing other safe sites to connect directly to the internet.
If you’re on a private connection, this can be a great tool to use. However, be careful. Whitelisting any site or IP address can leave you open to an unsecured connection without encryption.
The benefit of a feature like this can be appreciated when setting up network devices, such as a printer or scanner, to avoid the additional hassle of setting them up through the VPN. It can also eliminate the need to turn on and off the VPN by simply adding your favorite secure sites to your white list.
Privacy beyond VPN includes premium features such as HackLock—email leak protection—and BlindSearch—private search— as you’ll see in the screenshot below. At an additional $0.99 USD per month, you can add this to your current Surfshark subscription by clicking “more info.”
Surfshark is extremely usable, and most features can be customized. As for server locations, you can easily favorite and toggle between servers via the Locations tab. You could choose the “fastest server” or “closest country,” and this option allows you the additional personalization to choose your favorites.
Surfshark offers a double VPN connection, giving you another layer of protection and security. By connecting via two different VPN servers, often located in two different countries, you can hide your location better and improve your privacy further.
This feature is great for users that are hyper-sensitive about their online privacy. Keep in mind that a good VPN such as Surfshark will offer sufficient protection even if you only use their single VPN server.
The best part? Like all of Surfshark’s features, MultiHop is easy to set up. Simply head to the Locations tab, select MultiHop at the top of the screen, and scroll to select your favorite pair.
Multiple/Unlimited Device Support
While you’ll often see a limit to the number of devices under one VPN account, Surfshark boasts an unlimited devices feature. This means that you can have simultaneous connections on all of your family’s devices, protecting your privacy from every entrance point. You can connect smart TVs, gaming consoles, and even your FireStick with FireTV!
SurfShark VPN Comparison Chart
Surfshark’s offer includes an ad blocker, torrenting, independent audits, and Whitelister, which many other VPNs don’t currently offer.
2. Numerous Servers in Different Countries Offered
Surfshark has over 1,000 servers in over 60 countries, giving you access to the most reliable and fastest servers while still providing the most secure connection possible. I mentioned previously that they have a no-logs policy as most VPNs do. They also ensure that all servers support peer-to-peer sharing.
3. Small Speed Loss (~15-20%)
Speed testing is a necessity, since using a VPN has the possibility of slowing your connection. I tested the speed using Surfshark on four different servers. You will see the results below.
For reference, prior to using the VPN, our benchmark speed test showed 237 Mbps download and 12 Mbps upload.
New York – US (Connect to Fastest Server)
- Ping: 57ms
- Download: 161.18 Mbps
- Upload: 9.07 Mbps
Sydney – Australia
- Ping: 211ms
- Download: 150.01 Mbps
- Upload: 5.44 Mbps
Toronto – CA (Faster Download Speeds Than “Fastest Server”)
Paris – France (Faster Download Speeds Than “Fastest Server”)
- Ping: 108ms
- Download: 170.77 Mbps
- Upload: 8.56 Mbps
The tests will have different results based on the time of day and node saturation. I attempted “Fastest Server” Connect via SurfShark to stack against these currently higher speeds from servers in different countries.
To confirm my results, I connected to New York again, and speeds were faster than the first but just falling short of Toronto by 2 Mbps:
New York, Second Attempt – US (Connect to Fastest Server)
- Ping: 17ms
- Download: 181.62 Mbps
- Upload: 9.03 Mbps
4. Torrenting / P2P Allowed With Surfshark, Including Use of Tor Network
VPNs for torrenting are practically a necessity to keep your anonymity when downloading or seeding torrents, and Surfshark claims that they’re the best VPN out there for that exact purpose.
Your internet providers can throttle your connection speed based on the content you download or torrent, so a VPN helps you avoid this. Using a VPN especially while torrenting can also offer protection from possible downloaded malware. This is no different with Surfshark. But what makes Surfshark stand out is their compatibility with all P2P clients, including uTorrent, BitTorrent, Vuze, and many others.
Surfshark VPN is compatible with any torrent site, so you can access your favorite P2P sites without restrictions, such as ThePirateBay and LimeTorrents.
You can get top-notch P2P speeds while using Surfshark’s servers in the following countries:
- United States (US)
- United Kingdom (UK)
- Canada (CA)
- Germany (DE)
- Italy (IT)
- Poland (PL)
- Spain (IS)
- Norway (NO)
- Denmark (DK)
- Luxembourg (LU)
- Hong Kong (HK)
- Singapore (SG)
- Netherlands (NL)
- Bulgaria (BG)
- Belgium (BE)
- Switzerland (CH)
- Slovakia (SK)
- Serbia (RS)
- Finland (FI)
This doesn’t mean you have to stick to these countries’ servers when torrenting, however. If you’d prefer, SurfShark can reroute you to other servers located in the Netherlands, Canada, or the United States, depending on your actual physical location. These P2P connections include streaming players like VLC or PopcornTime, as well as torrent software like BitTorrent, Vuze, or uTorrent.
Surfshark also allows for connection to the Tor network to fully secure your browsing experience. Tor is “the onion router,” which ensures that all of your online web traffic remains completely anonymous. Because the Tor network is run by volunteers, security is not always guaranteed. Running Tor with Surfshark grants you that anonymity with the security and safety of a reliable VPN.
5. Netflix Works in Most Places
Netflix offers different content in different countries depending on where you are located. Using a VPN with Netflix allows you to access content you wouldn’t normally be able to watch.
Here are the Netflix platforms you’ll find on their corresponding servers:
- Netflix UK > UK servers
- Netflix IN > India servers
- Netflix IT > Italy servers
- Netflix CA > Canada servers
- Netflix DE > Germany servers
- Netflix AU > Australia servers
- Netflix FR > France servers
- Netflix NL > Netherlands servers
- Netflix BR > Brazil servers
- Netflix US > All servers in countries other than the UK, Japan, India, Italy, Canada, Germany, Korea, Netherlands, Turkey, France, Australia, Brazil, or Singapore
Overall, all US servers I tested worked great. I did experience some issues when testing for Japan and Spain.
- New York – US: Yes
- Los Angeles – US: Yes
- Miami – US: Yes
- Atlanta – US: Yes
- Chicago – US: Yes
- Toronto – Canada: Yes
- Madrid – Spain: No (proxy detected)
- New Zealand: Yes
- Japan: No (proxy detected)
- London – UK: Yes
- Mumbai – India: Yes
6. No Leaks Found With Surfshark!
As with all VPNs, I want to make sure that the leak tests are clean to verify that there are actually no IP, DNS, or WedRTC leaks.
Below are my findings after testing with IPLeak.net, Perfect-Privacy.com, BrowserLeaks, and IPX.ac.
- IPLeak.net Test – No Leak
- Perfect-Privacy.com DNS Leak Test – No Leak
- Perfect-Privacy.com IP Leak – No Leak
- BrowserLeaks WebRTC Leak Test – No Leak
- IPX.ac – No Leak
7. Features of Surfshark
This feature will turn off your internet connection immediately if the VPN drops for whatever reason, so that your data protection and privacy are never compromised. Surfshark’s Kill Switch option is available on Windows, macOS, and iOS.
If you’re working with sensitive information or even torrenting, turning on the Kill Switch feature offers you extra security. As with everything with Surfshark, it’s extremely easy to use, as you’ll see below.
Step 1. In the Surfshark app, navigate to Settings > Connectivity.
Step 2: Switch it on, and it is activated. If, for some reason, you get disconnected, a notification will pop up, and your internet access will be immediately terminated.
No Logging Policy
When using a VPN, a no-log policy should be standard, as this keeps your data, history, IP address, traffic, and connection timestamps from being collected and stored. Surfshark protects all traffic with AES-256-GCM encryption, which is the industry-leading standard. This also keeps your traffic from suffering from any IP, WebRTC, or DNS leaks.
The personal information Surfshark admits to storing is your login information (email address and encrypted password) and your basic billing information in order to create your account.
No Borders Mode
Depending on where you may be located while browsing the Internet, certain sites can be blocked or restricted. Surfshark’s No Borders mode opens up the internet for you to freely browse, unblocked, without geo-restrictions.
From streaming platforms to government-based censored content, you’ll be able to explore with unlimited access.
Private DNS and Leak Protection
Each server has a private DNS and leak protection when using the IPv4 stack. This creates yet another level of security.
What I do love about Surfshark is their camouflage mode, which makes your traffic appear normal to avoid suspicion from your provider that you’re using a VPN, so you can browse in peace.
Hide Your IP
Your IP address alone can tell a LOT about you, including your physical location. Using a VPN is the easiest and most secure way to mask your IP. With Surfshark, simply logging in and connecting will automatically hide it, keeping your data, history, and location private.
Surfshark uses industry-leading AES-256-GCM encryption, so you can rest assured that your information is protected.
Their default protocol on all their apps is IKEv2/IPsec, which is often a standard on the leading VPNs. However, OpenVPN is also an option with Surfshark.
8. Customer Support Offered 24/7
Live Chat, 24/7, FAQs, Tutorials
Surfshark has a great customer support platform allowing you to search through support documentation and walk through tutorials on how to use their VPN and its features. If you run into an issue or have an unanswered question, their support team is available via live chat or email 24/7.
Surfshark VPN Cons
1. Physical Location Information Not Transparent Enough
I found very little information about Surfshark’s physical location, so their lack of transparency can be a cause for concern, as you’ll see in their response to this question below. They mention that they are under the jurisdiction of the British Virgin Islands, a region away from the 14 Eyes, but don’t specify where. Don’t worry though, a lot of companies in the industry do that – look at ExpressVPN and NordVPN.
Multiple Pricing Plans Offered
Surfshark offers one of the lowest pricing packages I have seen, with just $1.99 USD per month if you sign up for their 24-month package. Even if you are concerned with making a long-term commitment, they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. You’ll see that they offer 1-month and 12-month plans as well at a higher price if you would be interested in a short-term option.
- 30 days: $11.95 a month = $143.40 a year
- 1 year: $5.99 a month = $71.88 a year
- 24 months: $1.99 per month
For payment methods, Surfshark offers flexibility. You can pay using a multitude of options, including Paypal, Apple Pay, cryptocurrency and Alipay.
They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, even on their 24-month plan. As long as your account does not breach their Terms of Service, reach out to their customer support team to request a refund.
Surfshark doesn’t truly have a “free” trial, but they offer a risk-free subscription for 30 days. If you aren’t satisfied within those 30 days, you can simply request a refund. The only true “free” trial is through Google Play or the Apple App Store. You must provide your credit card information upfront, but you won’t be charged until the 7-day trial is up. At that point, you will be charged if you choose to continue.
Conclusion – Would I Say That Surfshark beats Their Competition?
Surfshark, for the price, has some wonderful features that you expect out of a good VPN. Speeds are fast, the usability of the app is unmatched, and their privacy and security are definitely on par with other VPN industry leaders. Their customer support was informed, timely, and was helpful with any questions I had.
At under $2 per month for their two-year package, you can’t beat what you’re getting with Surfshark VPN. I would recommend this VPN to anyone looking to protect their information on a budget!
Surfshark is a relatively new VPN provider that has quickly become a favorite of ours over the past few months. This VPN service started in 2018 and is located on the British Virgin Islands. A quick look into Surfshark shows that their head offices are indeed situated there, but that it’s likely they operate from the United Kingdom, a 5 eyes country.
Surfshark is a VPN with strong encryption and very user-friendly software. The low prices and user-friendliness make Surfshark a fantastic VPN. Without a doubt, this starter is already on par with long-term champions such as ExpressVPN, NordVPN or CyberGhost.
- Simultaneous connections: No limit
- Operating systems: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
- Protocols: OpenVPN, IKEv2, Shadowsocks
- Logging policy: No logs
- Servers: 1700 servers across 63+ countries
- Price: From $1.99 a month
- Money back guarantee: 30 days
Speed – How fast is Surfshark?
Having a VPN that doesn’t influence the speed of your internet is essential. VPNs that maintain a big portion of your download and upload speeds let you enjoy the advantages of a VPN without compromising your internet speed. However, if a VPN is slow, it becomes unusable. In other words, the speed can make or break a VPN. To be able to draw some conclusions about Surfshark’s performance, we’ve extensively researched Surfshark by running multiple speed tests. We also tested the VPN during daily use. You can read about our findings below.
Surfshark speed test results
The internet speeds decrease when we’re using Surfshark. Our local Surfshark server has a slightly higher ping and slightly slower download and upload speeds. With the distant servers, this difference is quite significant, with the ping peaking, and especially the upload speed lowering quite drastically.
Please note: this does not mean the quality of the American servers is worse than that of our local servers. It just shows that servers far away from you affect your speed more than servers that are close. The American servers are still of very good quality, and they are perfect for watching American Netflix.
Speed during daily use
Because of the test results, especially those of the US server, we had our doubts about Surfshark’s performance when it comes to internet speeds. Surprisingly enough, the VPN proved to function fantastically during everyday use. We tested Surfshark whilst surfing, watching Netflix, downloading torrents and playing online games, and it surprised us every time.
While browsing, we didn’t notice Surfshark’s effect on our internet speeds at all. Websites loaded quickly. E-mailing, downloading attachments, and browsing social media all went very quickly. We had no issues watching videos on YouTube and Netflix, either. Netflix even appeared to buffer faster than with other VPN providers. This is quite remarkable when you consider the speed test results. We can confidently say that Surfshark works excellently for streaming (especially Netflix).
Downloading torrents went effortlessly as well. We managed to download relatively large files in no time. What’s more, Surfshark even noticed we were using a torrenting program and automatically switched from a regular VPN server to a specialized P2P server to facilitate the downloading. We found this to be very user-friendly.
Likewise, we didn’t experience any lag while gaming. We used both local and US servers without noticeable delays. Even when playing an online first-person shooter, we noticed no difference in terms of reaction speed.
Conclusion: Surfshark’s speed
The results of the speed tests weren’t fantastic, but they weren’t bad either. We experienced no issues during everyday use. In some situations, Surfshark even proved to be faster than some of our other VPN providers. So, to sum it all up, these are our findings:
- Surfshark’s VPN has great internet speeds during everyday use
- The speed tests show a slight to reasonably strong decrease in both upload and download speeds
- In our opinion, Surfshark is a VPN with above average internet speeds, due to the fantastic performance during everyday use
Safety – How secure is Surfshark?
Internet safety might be the most important factor when choosing a VPN. When it comes to this, we’re very happy with Surfshark. Surfshark takes every necessary precaution to guarantee a secure connection. In addition to secure servers with strong encryption protocols, they offer the possibility to connect through two VPN servers at the same time (MultiHop). This means you’ll be even more secure. Surfshark also has a kill switch. Once you’ve activated this and the VPN connection happens to drop, your data won’t be sent online until the connection has been restored. This way, you can still browse and download without having to worry about security or prying eyes.
Furthermore, Surfshark is located on the British Virgin Islands, which is a very safe location for any VPN provider. The only downside is that they appear to be operating from Britain, where privacy laws aren’t as advanced as you might think. This is why we can’t give Surfshark a perfect score for security. Nevertheless, this VPN is generally safer than most others, especially in compartison to Free VPNs.
Surfshark uses, among others, the two safest protocols right now: OpenVPN and IKEv2. This shows they clearly aren’t willing to compromise when it comes to their users’ security. On top of this, Surfshark also offers a protocol which was specifically designed to circumvent censorship, specifically censorship in China: Shadowsocks. This protocol is an encrypted proxy.
Logging and privacy
Surfshark has a ‘no logs’ policy. They have made every effort to require as little personal information of you as possible for your VPN to work. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t need any information. Just like most other providers, they’ll need your email address to create an account and payment information so they can process your payments. More on this later.
Secondly, Surfshark—like most VPNs—requires certain information to monitor their service. For example, they use anonymized information to keep track of how busy their servers are and to see if there are any connection issues. These issues aren’t traceable to a specific user and only concern the general use of their servers and service. In addition, Surfshark don’t appear to be keeping any logs. As mentioned previously, they have a strict ‘no logs’ policy, and we couldn’t find anything in their regulations that contradicts this.
What information does Surfshark need?
All you need to do to create an account with Surfshark is provide the VPN with your email address and a password. Therefore, if you make sure neither contain any information about you, you’re good. If you want to remain even more anonymous, we recommend paying through an anonymous service such as Bitcoin. Should you choose to pay with a service like PayPal instead, you will have to share some information about your PayPal account in order to complete the payment.
Conclusion: Surfshark’s safety
We found Surfshark to be a relatively secure VPN provider. The only downsides we ran into are things that pretty much every VPN struggles with. That is why we came to the following conclusions about Surfshark’s safety:
- Surfshark’s head offices are located on the British Virgin Islands, but they appear to operate from Britain, which is not ideal
- Surfshark is a secure VPN with very strong encryption protocols (OpenVPN, IKEv2 and Shadowsocks)
- Surfshark does not keep logs
- You can pay with Bitcoin to create a Surfshark account and you only have to give them your email address and a password
- Surfshark does not keep track of specific user data, but does use anonymized information to determine their server load and spot possible connection issues
Usability – How user-friendly is Surfshark?
Surfshark excels at user-friendliness. Their software is very easy to use, since it has a couple of super convenient options. On top of that, their customer service is very easy to reach, should you need help with anything after all.
The Surfshark website
The Surfshark website reminds us a little of NordVPN’s site. The website is well-organized, not too busy, and all available information is readily available. Besides key information such as features and pricing in the top bar, you can find a link to the FAQ in the footer. The FAQ section is very clearly organized as well. Surfshark is a provider that focuses entirely on getting important information across to their readers and users as effectively as possible.
For this purpose, they’ve kept the ‘My Account’ section of the website as simple as possible. There are a couple of buttons for downloading software for specific devices and operating systems. You can also see when your subscription will end, and there’s a button for changing your password and one for logging out. As a result, managing your Surfshark account is very easy.
The installing procedure for Surfshark is incredibly easy and straightforward. On mobile devices, you can download the VPN app from the App Store or Google Play. On Mac or PC, simply click the relevant icon on the website.
The actual installation goes like this:
- Choose a subscription and go through the order process
- Log in to the Surfshark website
- Click on the icon of your operating system
- Open the .exe file you downloaded
- Go through the steps of the installation wizard
- Open the Surfshark software by clicking on the hyperlink
- Log in with the login information you created for your account
- If you want, select a server, then enable Surfshark
Surfshark’s design and ease of use
The looks and ease of use of Surfshark’s software might be one of the best features of this VPN. Once you’ve signed in, you won’t be overwhelmed by countless options and settings. Instead, you’re only shown those things that matter to the average VPN user. All options and settings include a clear description and all menus are easy to navigate.
Surfshark doesn’t require you to manually select the right server for whatever you plan on doing online. Simply connect to Surfshark’s VPN and it will automatically recognize when you’re about to download a torrent, for example. In this case, you won’t have to manually select a P2P server, as the program will do it for you. Moreover, all American servers appear to work with Netflix, and you can even effortlessly set up a double VPN tunnel. All these separate elements make Surfshark a very well-performing and user-friendly VPN.
Surfshark and Linux
Surfshark is also available for Linux users. Specifically, the terminal app is available to Ubuntu and Debian users. Unfortunately, this does not even come close to the amount of Linux options of competitors like NordVPN and ExpressVPN. Users of other distros can make use of manual OpenVPN servers, however. Below you can read a short summary of our experience with using SurfShark on a Debian system.
The number of servers available to Linux users is somewhat limited compared to Surfshark’s overall server network. Rather than the 1700+ servers, Linux users have access to about 102 servers spread across 61 countries. Unfortunately, the quality of your connection depends quite strongly on which server you select. Some of Surfshark’s servers can compete with the best VPN-providers out there. Other ones barely manage to achieve a quarter of your normal internet speed. As such, be sure to run a quick speed test when you connect to a new server to check if you have one of the good ones.
More worryingly though, Linux users tend to suffer from DNS leaks or transparent proxies while connected to Surfshark. This problem can be resolved if you are particularly savvy with Linux, or with the help of customer service. Nevertheless, the problem shouldn’t be occurring in the first place.
The user-friendliness, however, is fine. The installation is a piece of cake and the selection of commands you have to learn is limited and intuitive. Surfshark also includes a number of neat extra features, such as an automated selection of the best available server, a kill switch, multi-hop, and the ability to easily switch between UDP and TCP servers. Unfortunately, these extra features do not make up for the DNS leaks, transparent proxies, or uneven quality of available servers. Moreover, quite often, these features aren’t even available. Because of all these negatives, SurfShark is not in our list of the best VPNs for Linux.
Pricing and payment methods
Surfshark is very reasonably priced. It’s one of the cheapest options around. As with most other VPNs, you receive a discount when you subscribe for a longer period. A monthly subscription costs $11.95 per month, a 1-year subscription costs $5.99 per month, and a 2-year subscription costs only $1.99 per month. On their website, these prices are also available in euros, AUS/CAN dollars, Chinese yuan, and British pounds.
No matter which subscription you get, Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, and you can use the subscription on an unlimited number of devices. Payment methods include the following options:
- Credit card (Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover Card)
- Google Pay
- Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies (using CoinGate or CoinPayments)
- Other, local payment options
Surfshark has excellent customer service. When we tried the chat function on their website, we were assisted by an actual employee within the space of a minute. Our problem was that we couldn’t watch American Netflix at first, but customer service was able to help us fix this in no time. We also appreciated the fact that we were talking to a real person. We didn’t receive any automated responses from a bot. This is a relief compared to the customer service at certain other VPNs.
Conclusion: Surfshark’s ease of use
Based on our experiences with Surfshark, we arrived at the following conclusions:
- Surfshark is a highly user-friendly VPN
- Surfshark’s software is intuitive and easy to understand
- Creating and managing an account is very straightforward
- Installing Surfshark’s software is easy
- Surfshark’s customer service is quick to respond and manned by actual humans
- Surfshark is one of the cheapest VPN providers and offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on all their subscriptions
Surfshark’s server network
Surfshark has an extensive server network: they have 1700 servers across 63+ countries and locations. This is very convenient for bypassing geo blocks. In most countries, they have multiple servers. Especially the US servers are numerous, most likely to ensure watching the American Netflix keeps working.
Furthermore, all of Surfshark’s servers are P2P-friendly. This means you won’t have to select a special P2P server if you want to download torrents, for instance. Furthermore, Surfshark gives you the option of connecting to two VPN servers at once (MultiHop). Your data will be sent through not one, but two VPN servers. This increases your online security and anonymity. Not all of Surfshark’s servers support this. Instead, there are thirteen pre-selected combinations of two servers you can use. Three of these have a U.S. server as the exit server. This is very useful for unblocking a lot of geo-restricted content, such as the US version of Netflix, while staying extra safe.
Number of servers and locations
Surfshark has 1700 servers across 63 locations. These locations are spread out over the following countries:
Dedicated IP address
So far, Surfshark doesn’t offer the possibility to request a dedicated IP address. However, you’ll usually connect to the same server and same IP address when choosing a specific server. But this isn’t always the case: if you select the ‘optimal location’ option, chances are you’ll get a different server each time. That’s because Surfshark looks at the amount of traffic on various servers and selects the server that works best at that moment.
With a recent update, however, Surfshark has added some servers with a ‘static’ IP-address. This means the IP-address of these servers will always be the same. Though we wouldn’t recommend using them as of this moment, because they seem to be shared and not dedicated. In theory, however, you could use these servers to get access to websites and apps which block you if you log in from a different IP address than you normally do, while still enjoying some added protection, because of Surfshark’s VPN tunnel and encryption. We have not tested ourselves whether this actually works well though, so we can’t guarantee this is a viable and good way to get access to these services.
Conclusion: Surfshark’s server network
These are the conclusions we arrived at regarding Surfshark’s server network and locations:
- Surfshark has an excellent server network of 1700 servers across 63 locations
- There is a multitude of American servers and all of them appear to work with Netflix
- Surfshark has special P2P servers, to which you are connected automatically
- It’s possible to send your data through two VPN servers at the same time
In addition to the standard possibilities, Surfshark also offers useful extra features. For instance, Surfshark has an optional kill switch, the possibility of connecting through two VPN servers at the same time (they call this MultiHop), a Whitelister that allows you to visit certain websites or apps without going through the VPN first, and a CleanWeb option that blocks ads, trackers and malware. On top of that, both Netflix and torrents work well with Surfshark.
MultiHop, Whitelister and CleanWeb
All three of these Surfshark features functioned properly when we tried them. CleanWeb was able to block ads that managed to slip even past our regular adblockers. The MultiHop option provides some additional security, but does have negative impact on your internet speeds. After all, your traffic has to go through two VPN servers instead of one. The Whitelister for apps and websites allows you to connect to specific apps and websites you trust using your own IP address instead of that of the VPN server. This could definitely prove convenient in some situations.
On top of that, Surfshark has recently added two new features: HackLock and BlindSearch. HackLock is an option you can use that will notify you when your email or passwords might be in danger of being compromised. BlindSearch is Surfshark’s answer to the anonymous search engine DuckDuckGo. However, both HackLock and BlindSearch are still in beta.
Surfshark and Netflix
Surfshark aims to unblock Netflix for all VPN users. During our tests, all US servers appeared to work with Netflix. Aside from that, Surfshark also allows you to access the content of other local versions of Netflix. Surfshark actively focuses on making the libraries of thirteen countries available to their users. These countries are: the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Italy, India, Turkey, Brazil, Singapore, and Norway.
If you use a different server location to visit Netflix, you’ll automatically be sent on to the American (US) version of Netflix. On their website, Surfshark mentions that you can ask them about any Netflix library you’d like to access, but isn’t on their list. They might be able to unlock it for you.
In case you still can’t reach Netflix with this clever system, don’t hesitate to contact Surfshark. Their customer support live chat works effectively and can usually help. They might give you advice about which server to choose or try to solve the issue from their side. Usually, they’re able to help you out in a few minutes. In short, Surfshark is very suitable for streaming and Netflix.
Surfshark and torrents
Surfshark has specialized P2P servers that keep you extra secure while downloading torrents. You don’t have to manually select these servers: they are automatically activated when you open a torrenting program. The VPN server will recognize the P2P traffic and connect you to a P2P server. We even suspect it might automatically connect you via MultiHop servers. This means added protection against prying eyes.
Conclusion: Surfshark’s options
- Surfshark offers various features that block ads, whitelist websites and offer increased levels of security
- Both US servers and servers of other countries worked with Netflix
- You can download torrents with Surfshark safely and easily
- Surfshark for Linux isn’t nearly as good as the Windows version
Conclusion – Our experience with Surfshark
As far as we’re concerned, Surfshark is an excellent VPN provider that’s on par with today’s largest and most popular VPNs. Its low prices, accessible software and useful extra features prompted us to place Surfshark high in our rankings.
Budget VPNs don't have to be feature-free, and Surfshark is the proof - it's absolutely stuffed with advanced functionality, yet is half the price of many competitors.
- Loads of features
- Unblocks Netflix
- Very cheap two-year plan
- Speedy and helpful live chat support
- Trial is for mobile apps and Macs only
- Support website needs work
- Kill switch issues
An interesting VPN with a huge feature set and a surprisingly small price, Surfshark's network has recently grown to 1040 servers spread across an impressive 160 locations in 64 countries, for instance - it's no wonder it ranks so highly on our VPN countdown.
There are Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Linux apps, Chrome and Firefox extensions, and a website-unblocking Smart DNS system for games consoles, TVs and more.
Whatever you're using, there's no need to worry about annoying 'simultaneous connection' limits - you can install and run Surfshark on as many devices as you like.
The service is strong on the technical essentials, including strong AES-256-GCM encryption, OpenVPN and IKEv2 support, a no-logs policy, and a kill switch to protect you if your connection drops.
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- Want to try Surfshark? Check out the website here
Oh, there’s also URL and ad blocking, P2P support on most servers, VPN chaining (use two servers for one hop), split tunneling, the company's own zero-knowledge DNS servers, and 24/7 support via email and live chat if anything goes wrong.
That's a lot of power, but Surfshark hasn't finished yet.
Major changes to our last review include support for two-factor authentication, making it more difficult for an attacker to hack your account. New GPS spoofing for Android ensures any apps requesting your physical location will get the coordinates of your chosen VPN server.
Surfshark's dark mode is easy on your eyes (Image credit: Surfshark)
And there are a bunch of smaller improvements, including dark mode, extra configuration options and extended diagnostics to speed up any troubleshooting.
Plans and pricing
As you'd discover from our dedicated Surfshark price and deals guide, the service's monthly plan is more expensive than some, at $11.95, and paying for a year up-front still only cuts the cost to $5.99 (Private Internet Access, Speedify, Bitdefender and others all have annual plans for under $4.) But the two-year plan looks like a real bargain at $1.99, one of the lowest prices we've seen for a full-featured VPN.
If you worry about signing up for long-term plans, then so do we, but when the price is this low, it doesn't really matter. Just look at the figures: sign up for two years at Surfshark and you'll pay $47.76 up-front; choose just one year at NordVPN and you'll spend $83.88. Even if you're barely using Surfshark after a year, it still looks like fair value to us.
A seven-day free trial for Android, iOS and Mac gives you some time to sample the service for yourself. We'd like something longer, with Windows support, too, but it seems unfair to complain when many providers have no trials at all.
Surfshark even delivers more than you'd expect with its range of payment methods, with support for credit cards, PayPal, cryptocurrencies, Amazon Pay, Google Pay and Ali Pay.
But if, after all this, you sign up and find the company isn't for you, no problem - you're protected by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Surfshark keeps no logs on its users and the service protects your connection with AES 256 encryption and a kill switch (Image credit: Surfshark)
Privacy and logging
Surfshark's privacy features start with the VPN basics: secure protocols (OpenVPN UDP and TCP, IKEv2), AES-256 encryption, and a kill switch to block internet access and prevent identity leaks if the connection ever fails.
But that's just the start. Surfshark has its own private DNS on each server to reduce the chance of others spying on your activities. And the ability to use a double VPN hop (connect to Paris, say, then leave the Surfshark network in New York) makes it even more difficult for anyone to follow your tracks.
Like ExpressVPN, Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands, and the company points out that this means it's not required to keep logs of user actions.
A FAQ page on logging spells this out, stating that Surfshark doesn't collect: 'Incoming and outgoing IP addresses; Browsing, downloading or purchasing history; VPN servers you use; Used bandwidth; Session information; Connection timestamps; Network traffic.'
The only data the company keeps about you is your email address and billing information, the FAQ explains, and some anonymous, aggregated stats: performance information, frequency of use of the system, unsuccessful connections, crash reports.
We would like more information on these stats, how they're collected and what the company sees, but overall, there's nothing too surprising here. (If you're unhappy, you can limit this data collection a little, for example by disabling crash reporting in your app Settings box.)
The Surfshark website boasts that it has passed a security audit by the German Security company Cure53. And that's true, but this was limited to an examination of Surfshark's browser extensions, so can't tell us anything about logging or other back end processes. And as it happened in November 2018, we're unsure that it tells us anything useful about the service as it is today.
Still, it's good to see that Cure53 found only two relatively small issues, and concluded that it was 'highly satisfied to see such a strong security posture on the Surfshark VPN extensions, especially given the common vulnerability of similar products to privacy issues.'
Surfshark's windows client will look very familiar to those familiar with other VPNs (Image credit: Surfshark)
Getting started with Surfshark was easy. We downloaded and installed the Windows client, chose the signup option, and were even able to select a plan and hand over payment from within the installer, no third-party browser required.
The Windows client interface is more versatile than most, adapting like a responsive website as you resize its window. At its smallest, the client looks much like any other VPN app, with a Connect button, status information and a list of locations. But expand or maximize the client window and it reformats to display new panels and options.
Getting connected is easy. Tap the button, desktop notifications tell you when Surfshark connects and disconnects, and the interface updates to display your new virtual location and IP address.
The Location list doesn't display latencies, but server load icons highlight your best (and worst) options, and a Favorites system enables managing commonly used servers.
Right-clicking the Surfshark system tray icon displays a miniature app window, rather than the usual basic menu, allowing you to connect to the fastest server, choose one of your most recent locations, or open the full app interface.
Surfshark even includes a MultiHop feature that sends your traffic through two VPN servers for added security (Image credit: Surfshark)
A MultiHop tab passes your traffic through two VPN servers, ensuring that even if the exit server is compromised, an attacker still won't have your real IP. There are 13 routes available, where the first server is your initial connection (options include USA, UK, Singapore, Germany, France, India, Netherlands and Australia), and the second is where you'll appear to be to the outside world (France, Germany, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, Sweden, UK, USA.) The idea is that even if the exit server is compromised, the attacker will still only get an anonymous IP.
A Whitelister panel enables creating whitelists of applications, websites and IP addresses that will bypass the VPN (an equivalent of the split-tunneling feature you'll see with providers like ExpressVPN). If using Surfshark breaks a particular website or app, adding it to the whitelist should solve the problem.
(Alternatively, you're able to set the Whitelister to route only your chosen apps through the VPN. That may be more useful if you're only using Surfshark for one or two tasks, maybe torrenting; set up your torrent client to connect via the VPN and everything else will use your regular connection.)
Surfshark's CleanWeb feature blocks ads, trackers and malicious links. We're unsure how effective this might be, though, as in our quick tests we found specialist tools like uBlock Origin blocked more ads and offered more control.
A NoBorders mode aims to help you get online in countries where VPNs are commonly blocked. Surfshark doesn't explain in detail what this does, but presumably it tries to obfuscate your traffic in some way.
More conventional features include options to launch the VPN along with Windows, or change the protocol between OpenVPN UDP and TCP, IKEv2 or Shadowsocks (an alternative way to direct traffic through an encrypted tunnel, commonly used to bypass internet censorship in China.)
You can enable Surfshark's kill switch from the settings menu (Image credit: Surfshark)
A kill switch is on hand to block your internet connection if the VPN drops. It works, too, but not quite as well as we'd like.
Our first issue is that it's only available in the most extreme form, where the kill switch prevents you accessing the internet at all, ever, unless you're connected to Surfshark. We prefer the more standard approach where the kill switch is only active if the connection drops within a VPN session, and you still have the option to close the app and use your regular internet connection, instead.
In another complication, although the kill switch successfully blocked our internet traffic when we forcibly closed the VPN, it didn't display any notification to alert the user. If you're browsing and the VPN drops, all you'll see is your internet connection fails with no obvious reason why. This may only last for a few seconds, until the app auto-reconnects, but it's still potentially annoying.
If you don't have the kill switch active, the problem gets worse. If the VPN drops, not only will your connection remain active, but the client won't warn you. And as we found the app occasionally failed to reconnect, again without warning the user, your identity and data could be exposed for some time.
Surfshark's Windows client needs some work, then, but it's generally easy to use and there's a lot of functionality to explore.
The mobile apps look and feel much like the desktop versions (Image credit: Surfshark)
Mobile VPN apps are often far more basic than their desktop cousins, but Surfshark's Android offering is surprising similar. There's more or the same interface, the same location list, multihop connections, CleanWeb's ad and malware blocking, and split tunneling for apps and websites with the Whitelister.
There's the same OpenVPN/ IVEv2 and Shadowsocks protocol support, and a kill switch to protect you if the VPN drops.
The Android app throws in extra features, too: a choice of encryption methods (AES-256-GGM or Chacha20Poly1305, maybe giving you better speeds), a 'use small packets' option to improve performance with some mobile networks, and the ability to automatically connect to the VPN when you access mobile, secured or unsecured networks.
And if any of this doesn't work as it should, you can send bug reports, raise or browse tickets from within the app (no need to open your browser and waste time hunting around the website.)
It's much the same story with Surfshark's iOS app: the look and feel are very similar, and you still get the kill switch, the choice of protocols (OpenVPN, IKEv2) and the other options you won't always find on other mobile apps.
Put it all together and these are impressive apps, well implemented and straightforward to use. A nice antidote for anyone tired of losing VPN functionality on mobile devices, and considerably more than we'd expect from a $1.99 a month service.
We used TestMy.net to measure Surfshark's performance (Image credit: TestMy.net)
Surfshark's support for OpenVPN includes providing downloads of configuration files for each of its servers. That's good news if you're planning on manually setting the service up on other platforms which can use them, and it also allowed us to use our automated performance testing software to check out a sample of Surfshark's locations.
There was good news all round. We had no connection failures, connection times were fractionally faster than average, and all servers returned IP addresses for their advertised locations.
UK download speeds were as good as we could expect, at around 68Mbps on our 75Mbps test line.
We switched to a 600Mbps connection in the US, and tried the same tests again.
Average speeds of 150-160Mbps didn't begin to use all our bandwidth, but that's not necessarily an issue with Surfshark - they can also be affected by our ISP, load on the speed test site, and more.
What we can tell from the tests is Surfshark always gave very acceptable US performance. Across all forty checks, the very lowest speed we recorded was 119Mbps, more than enough for most people.
To check worst case speeds, we used the client to choose distant servers highlighted as having the heaviest load. Performance became very inconsistent, as we'd expect, but was still usable most of the time (South Korea managed 7-28Mbps, for instance.)
Put it all together and it looks like Surfshark delivers very acceptable performance, almost all of the time. The speeds you'll see will depend very much on your location and target servers, though, so it's important to take the trial and carry out performance tests of your own.
Surfshark was able to unblock Netflix in all of our tests, so we didn't see errors like the above (Image credit: Netflix)
If you're tired of VPNs who vaguely hint about their unblocking abilities, but never make any real commitment, you'll love Surfshark. Not only does the company say up-front that it unblocks Netflix, it also names the 14 countries where it currently works (US, France, Japan, Italy, Australia and more.)
This wasn't just overblown marketing-oriented confidence, either. We were able to access US Netflix from all five of our test locations.
YouTube has only the most basic of geographic protections, so we weren't surprised to find that Surfshark also allowed us to browse US YouTube content.
BBC iPlayer can sometimes be more of a challenge, but not this time. Surfshark bypassed its VPN blocking with ease, giving us access from both of its UK locations.
Amazon Prime Video support is a little more complicated, as usual. We could watch Amazon Prime Video while connected to Surfshark's UK servers, using a UK-registered Amazon account, but weren't able to watch Prime Video when connected to other countries. That is, you can use Surfshark to access the service in your home country (or wherever you've registered your Amazon account), but it won't allow you to view content from other countries.
Surfshark's support site has a number of tutorials on how to get your VPN connection setup (Image credit: Surfshark)
If Surfshark doesn't work for you, the support site has setup and installation tutorials, troubleshooting guides, FAQs and other resources to point you in the right direction.
While there's a little useful content there, it's mostly related to setup, for example including guides to setting up the service to run on various routers. When we searched for more details on Surfshark's own features, we found most were described in the same one or two lines used on the main website, and others (NoBorders) weren't mentioned at all.
Organization is a problem, too. If you want to know about the iOS app, for instance, enter 'iOS' in the Support search box and most providers point you to one or two 'How to use'-type articles that tell you everything you need to know. Here, you just get a list of articles responding to a host of common iOS-related issues: 'unstable connection troubleshooting', 'How to change App Store region on iOS', 'How to set up OpenVPN on iOS' and so on. It's good to have all that detail, but what's lacking here are ExpressVPN-like one-stop manuals which tell you everything you need to know about a particular app. Hopefully that'll be addressed in the future.
Fortunately, if you have any issues, support is available 24/7 via live chat. We tried this while trying to diagnose a connection issue, and had a friendly reply in under 60 seconds.
The support agent seemed to be follow a general script a little more than we would like, for example asking us very standard system-level questions ('do you have any other VPNs installed?', 'what antivirus are you using?'), even after we explained that our problem was connecting to a single server, and the reason was because of a 'host not resolved' error (our DNS couldn't find an IP address for the server name.)
We can't blame the agent for following what works probably 95% of the time, though, and this did change as the conversation went on. The agent listened to us, realized the script wasn't enough, made more relevant suggestions and gave sensible answers to our own questions, over a session which lasted around 30 minutes.
Although there are no guarantees, our overall impression was a positive one. This felt like someone who was following a script because it was helpful, not because it's all they could do, and when we went off-road, they were more than capable of following us and discussing more complicated issues. That's very good news, and again, it's much more than we would expect for a service costing from $1.99 a month.
Surfshark is a powerful and low-priced VPN with an array of advanced features. There are some issues, too, but the service has seen some major improvements over the past year, and it deserves to be on your VPN shortlist.
Surfshark has been around for roughly a year now and while new players are always entering popular industries, it has been an interesting experience. Their consumer pricing is impressive but what does Surfshark have to offer in terms of features and can their performance surpass their low pricing? Let’s take a deeper look.
9 Things We Like About Surfshark
1. Safe & private connection
Like most top VPN service providers in the industry today, Surfshark offers consumers a leg up in privacy and security. This is accomplished through the usual dedicated service – a secure, encrypted tunnel that allows users to hide their traffic from prying eyes.
To accomplish this, Surfshark leverages on a few key protocols – the tried and tested OpenVPN as well as IKEv2. OpenVPN is generally accepted as the de-facto standard with high speeds and security. IKEv2 is also pretty good and works well with mobile networks.
Adding to this mix, Surfshark also offers Shadowsocks which is more known as an encrypted proxy. The key reason for this is likely that Shadowsocks works well in China, a touch market for VPNs due to Beijing’s crackdown on such services.
There have been user reports that Surfshark works for China-based users, but unfortunately I am not able to verify this at the current point of time.
Aside from the secure handshake with VPN servers, Surfshark also has very strong encryption for the data transmitted though the VPN tunnel. Where some providers allow users to adjust the encryption rate for better performance, Surfshark runs full tilt with AES-256 bit.
This works in tandem with a kill switch system which you can use to sever the Internet connection automatically should there be any issues with the VPN connection.
Internet activity is usually tracked using logs that are kept by the servers you connect to. The information collected usually includes IP address, browsing history, network traffic, and more. In short, that’s what allows a user to be tracked and identified.
Surfshark is dedicated to offering a no-logs service which means that your Internet activity is kept anonymous. I also tested the service for DNS Leaks and WebRTC leaks, both of which showed as negative.
- Excellent Protocol Selection
- Strong Encryption
- No Logs Kept
2. Multi-hop connection available
Surfshark currently offers several what it calls “multi-hop” connections. This means that users connecting to the Surfshark network have the option of routing through two VPN servers consecutively. This increases the anonymity factor for greater ease of mind.
Aside from that, the basic network covers over 61 countries around the world with a network of over 1,000 servers. That’s quite good for an up-and-coming service provider.
3. Available on many platforms
As with most good service providers, Surfshark has made their service available for several platforms so that you can use it with almost any device in existence. Their basic application covers mainstream platforms like Windows and iOS.
Alternatively, you can also install it on your gaming devices or smart devices like smart TVs.
For users who don’t mind a slower connection, Surfshark can also be used on routers
However, do take note that router-installed VPN services can be much slower due to encryption. It takes processing power to handle encryption and most routers are weak in that area, hence a slower connection.
Surfshark’s browser extension was audited by Cure53 and was found to be secure.
4. Good speed
Personally, I’ve been using Surfshark for around a year now and I’ve mostly been quite happy with their speeds. I’m connected to their US servers most of the time since I’m a Netflix fan and that’s where the best stuff is.
Still, their overall performance is good and in fact, well up to par with most of the top service providers in the business.
As with always, I tested Surfshark’s speed with several key locations around the world. To keep this in context, my physical location is in Malaysia and as such, PINGs (latency) will be higher for me depending on my physical distance to the VPN server. This is a fact regardless of VPN service provider.
To measure the speed of Surfshark I first took a baseline measurement, since Internet speeds vary from time to time due to various factors;
Keeping that in mind, here are the results for my tests to other locations with Surfshark on and using the OpenVPN (UDP) protocol;
During the speed tests, connection speeds to the Perth server in Australia seemed to be throttled, either by the test server or ISPs in the country. While this did not affect the VPN connection speed, it simply goes to demonstrate another use of a VPN – overcoming bandwidth throttling.
Normally, VPNs will place greater emphasis on performance in certain countries over others simply due to popularity. The first thing to take note of here is that in almost all locations tested, while not offering the fastest speeds I’ve seen so far, Surfshark is able to keep up very consistent speeds.
This is usually more telling of a VPN service than it is of one which has fantastic speeds in one or two locations and unusable connections in others. I was impressed that Surfshark managed to keep up performance in areas such as India and Indonesia as well, which are areas where I usually see performance dip significantly.
Also remember that these speeds were achieved at Surfshark’s fixed standard of 256-bit encryption. Overall, excellent results I would say, the most impressive being in consistency.
5. Strong global server presence
Now that we’ve looked at the speeds you can get over Surfshark’s connection, it brings the next area under even more scrutiny – coverage area. Surfshark has over 1,000 servers in more than 61 countries. For a relatively new service provider, this is a very large network and something that many VPN service providers haven’t achieved even after years in the business.
Almost all their servers are actual physical servers, with a handful of virtual locations. Virtual locations are instances where the VPN provider doesn’t have an actual service in the country but I able to spoof your location as from the area.
Their servers are also very capable and can handle all the protocols and features that Surfshark has to offer.
Aside from that, Surfshark also has several servers that offer users a fixed IP address. Although limited in number, these can come in handy since most ISPs offer regular consumers dynamic IPs only and charge extra for fixed IP addresses.
Finally, we also have the multi-hop connections. These are fixed routes whereby Surfshark runs VPN connections though pairs of secure servers, increasing the security of the connection for its users. Interestingly speed test results were also quite good with a multi-hop;
6. Smooth streaming of geo-blocked content
One of the key things I look out for in a VPN is their capability in overcoming geo-blocked content, especially when it comes to media streaming. I subscribe to Netflix and where I am, the regional media library is awful – so I use a VPN to watch Netflix US content.
I have tried so many VPNs that claim to allow Netflix streaming, but aside from top players such as ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and a handful of others, connection is spotty at best and I constantly get the dreaded ‘PROXY DETECTED’ message.
Thankfully, Surfshark has never caused me any problems with streaming. I’ve run Netflix over Surfshark over the past three months and had zero issues with Netflix or the BBC’s iPlayer so far.
As a comparison to this, I recently also tested another service provider and the Netflix experience there was sub-optimal. Let me play you a scenario; VPN A (Surfshark!) lets you stream Netflix easily and steadily at any time. VPN B has good speed and minimal buffering, but you need to constantly connect and disconnect to get Netflix working. Which would you choose?
7. Great prices
At $1.99 per month for a two-year subscription, Surfshark’s pricing is awesome. Seriously. To take that into perspective, ExpressVPN charges a discounted rate of roughly $8+ per month while recently NordVPN increased their prices to $3.49 per month.
For a service which offers such consistent performance and solid features, this is absolutely a steal and I’d say, a solid ‘buy’ option.
8. Smooth user experience
One thing I demand of all the VPNs that I like are that they come problem-free. This is applicable not just to the connection, but I also look out for a seamless sign-up experience, easy access to the apps I need to download, ease of use in the apps, and fast help if necessary.
Of all the VPNs I’ve used, I consider Surfshark one of the top ten I’ve tried where I didn’t look at something and said; “that’s weird”. To me, that is an important point that distinguishes them from the competition.
We, as paying customers, shouldn’t have to struggle to use a service we’ve paid for and the way Surfshark has built their customer experience model is smooth. From the moment you click ‘sign up’ to the time you turn off your device, it simply works.
9. Nifty extra features
Many VPN services today come with some extra value-added features built in and Surfshark is no exception. However, rather than try to take over the role of a main security solutions provider it has focused on features that add to its primary purpose.
The Whitelister feature is something that lets you allow some traffic to bypass the VPN service. This is useful as some apps or sites have issues with VPNs – for example Microsoft Office 365 or some specific websites here and there.
Surfshark allows you to work this in two ways – you can either allow an app on your device to completely bypass the VPN service, or you can add some website URLS (addresses) to the Whitelister and access them directly.
This is what Surfshark calls server obfuscation. It is another option for you to use if there are still sites that you need to access but for some reason have blocked VPN traffic specifically. Traffic obfuscation is applied to your connection to make it appear more like regular internet traffic instead of VPN traffic.
For some who are in highly restrictive areas such as China, regular VPN operation might not be enough to get around extremely high supervisory guards put in place to block services. This is where Surfshark’s No Borders Mode comes in. Simply flick a switch and let the app do the work for you.
As another added value service, Surfshark gives you the CleanWeb option to have it block ads and trackers, leaving you a cleaner (pardon the pun) web surfing experience. Overall, I’ve found this to be a bit of a mixed experience as I would rather let my Internet security software handle it.
- Camouflage Mode
- No Border Mode
What We Didn’t Like About Surfshark
1. Dodgy customer service
First off, despite the heading, Surfshark does offer fast first-line support via their online chat on the website. They also do respond quickly to emails for assistance. However, I found that in some cases their responses seemed to be a little questionable in terms of accuracy.
As an example of this, one of their customer service reps told me that IKEv2 was the default connection setting when installing their Windows application, but this didn’t seem to be correct. I’m not saying their customer service is bad, but just a little questionable at times (a reasonable doubt, perhaps?).
2. Weak social media presence
Unlike most VPN service providers who have great outreach on social channels, Surfshark’s Twitter account shows hardly any activity. Their Facebook page likewise seldom gets updates and both channels seem to only have a handful of followers.
While itself not a black mark against the company or service, it does raise further doubts about what should be a popular consumer service. Surely, they should have more people interested in their activities – their customers at the very least.
3. Allows P2P from all servers
Aside from streaming Netflix, my next point of interest is in P2P. I am a torrent hog and while Surfshark claims to support torrenting on most of their servers, I generally found that torrent speeds are quite bad with Surfshark on.
I had to make use of their app whitelisting to bypass the Surfshark connection in order to get decent speeds again on my torrent client.
Conclusion: Surfshark Is Great!
Now you know all the ups and downs I’ve had with Surfshark and I must conclude that it really is a very good service. I’m currently on their two-year plan and it has been my VPN of choice over the past few months (with some breaks in between to test other services).
The key takeaways I’d like to highlight again are the very consistent speeds I got using the service, their fantastic pricing, and finally, their seamless streaming of Netflix. Some of you might have other requirements, but I believe in terms of basic performance and privacy, Surfshark hits the mark quite well.
Surfshark’s latest pricing discounts make it the cheapest VPN I’ve tested. But does its quality match its price?
Surfshark claims to be the best all-round VPN, great for Netflix, torrenting, anonymous browsing, and staying safe on public WiFi. So I put it to the test.
I researched every feature, from its torrenting ability and security protocols to its device compatibility, unlimited connections, and customer support.
I’ve got everything you need to know about what it can do (and whether it does it well) detailed below.
Surfshark is a well-rounded VPN service that claims it can do everything from torrenting and streaming to browsing the Dark Web. But how well does it really perform? Can it really bypass geo-restrictions and unblock Netflix? And how about its speeds?
I put Surfshark through my toughest tests to see if it lives up to its claims. It’s now the cheapest premium option available, but that doesn’t mean much if it can’t deliver on the features you need most. I checked on server coverage, conducted speeds tests, looked over its security measures, analyzed its interface and ease-of-use, and even put its customer support on the spot.
Streaming – Does Surfshark Work with Netflix?
Great news if you’re looking for a streaming fix: Surfshark can unblock Netflix.
It’s actually one of our best VPNs for streaming. I found out that Surfshark can also unblock Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, HBO GO, and BBC iPlayer.
Surfshark’s high-speed servers meant that I was able to stream in high definition, even though I was connected to an international server.
I switched its CleanWeb ad blocker on while I was testing out CWTV and YouTube to get rid of the pesky midroll ads, which made for an overall smoother streaming experience.
Fast and reliable connections add a lot of value to a VPN service. A VPN that slows you down will negatively impact your ability to stream, torrent, and even browse the internet.
Before connecting to the VPN, I used a speed test to determine my starting speeds. I used a mobile device, and my speeds were 40.92 Mbps download, 14.52 Mbps upload, and a ping of 51 ms.
I compared these results to the speed I was able to achieve when connected to the VPN to get an accurate idea of Surfshark’s performance.
I began by testing its Quick Connection feature, which is supposed to automatically connect you to the fastest available server. The app connected me to a US-based server, and my speeds decreased to 25.90 Mbps.
I tested two other US servers, and the results were similar. While there was a speed decrease on each server, the connections were still fine for some online gaming, streaming in HD, and torrenting.
While connected to a UK server, our average download speed was around 20.06 Mbps:
This is slower than the results that I got with local US servers, but still fast enough for streaming and other high-traffic activity.
It’s common to get slower speeds when connecting to servers that are farther from your physical location.
Our download speed while connected to a server in Denmark was 18.68 Mbps:
Even across the world in Japan, I got an impressive speed of 13.31 Mbps:
These are fairly consistent speeds. I also got good results for network reliability. I didn’t experience any speed drops or connection failures during our tests.
Is Surfshark Good for Torrenting?
Surfshark is a secure and reliable choice for torrenting. All of its servers allow P2P sharing, and many are optimized for fast torrenting.
It offers all the necessary security measures to protect you and keep you anonymous while you torrent. Alongside 256-bit encryption and its strict no-logs policy, Surfshark passed all my IP and DNS leak tests.
It’s compatible with P2P clients like BitTorrent and uTorrent as well as streaming players like Ace Player, VLC, and Popcorn Time.
Security – Is Surfshark Safe?
My test results show that Surfshark is a secure VPN. It offers multiple high-end security
features, which I’ll take a closer look at below.
DNS and IPv6 Leak Protection
Before I trusted Surfshark with my own data, I tested its DNS and IPv6 leak protection.
DNS leak protection is important because it prevents security flaws in your browser from routing your DNS requests through your ISP instead of your VPN. Similarly, IPv6 leak protection prevents IPv6-enabled websites requesting your real IP address, and finding out your location.
I was pleased to find that Surfshark wasn’t leaking my DNS requests or IPv6 address. My IP address appeared to be based in the UK, even though I am in the US. This is good news because it means Surfshark’s IP masking works.
Surfshark guards your traffic with 256-bit encryption. This is the highest level of protection available, and means that third parties, including your ISP, can’t see any of your activity or personal data.
Automatic Kill Switch
Surfshark’s automatic kill switch kicks in and temporarily disconnects your internet if your VPN connection fails. This prevents data and IP leaks, and it automatically reconnects your internet when the VPN connection is reestablished.
MultiHop mode – Surfshark’s version of Double VPN – routes your traffic through two servers instead of one. This adds an extra layer of encryption, but it also slows your connection down. It’s useful for journalists in restrictive countries, but most regular users won’t need to switch it on.
You can use HackLock to monitor your email and passwords for any security breaches. Once you’ve enrolled in the program, if your information is found in a leaked database online, you’ll receive a message from Surfshark telling you that you’re at risk.
BlindSearch is Surfshark’s search tool. Unlike Google’s search engine, BlindSearch is private and ad-free. It doesn’t track or record your search history, either.
This mode is useful if you’re trying to bypass a firewall, or you live in a country that restricts VPN usage. It makes your encrypted traffic look like regular traffic under deep packet inspection (DPI) so that nobody can see you’re using a VPN. Unfortunately, it’s only available on Windows, Android, and iOS.
Trying to get online in a heavily-censored region, like China? No problems. Surfshark’s NoBorders mode will automatically detect this, and present you with a special list of servers that you can connect to.
Does Surfshark Keep Logs?
The provider only stores the following information:
- Your account email address (used only for customer service purposes)
- Your password (encrypted)
- Basic billing information
Don’t like the idea of handing over your payment details and exposing your identity? You can avoid this and enjoy complete anonymity by paying with Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency instead.
The only part of the logging policy I’m not a fan of is that Surfshark may collect unique advertising identifiers from third parties for marketing purposes and user analytics.
This isn’t a major concern, however, since you can reset your advertising identifier or opt out of this data collection at any time in your app settings.
Overall, Surfshark has a transparent and privacy-friendly logging policy. None of the following information is collected:
- IP addresses
- Browsing history
- Session information
- Bandwidth used
- Connection time stamps
- Network traffic
Further proof of Surfshark’s trustworthiness can be found in its warrant canary, which is a way for businesses to legally inform users of secret government requests for private information. Surfshark’s warrant canary is fully up to date and available on the website:
Does Surfshark Have an Ad Blocker?
Surfshark has a built-in ad, tracker, and malware blocker called CleanWeb.
I put it to the test by visiting sites that I know are usually full of ads, like Facebook. The CleanWeb feature worked beautifully. It even blocked YouTube’s midroll ads.
Does Surfshark Work in China?
China is constantly working on its anti-VPN technology, so VPNs have to work equally as hard to keep getting around the country’s geo-restrictions. Because conditions change constantly, it’s sometimes difficult to say whether a VPN works in China.
However, most users report that Surfshark does work in China. The FAQ also say that you can reach out to customer support for help if you find that the VPN is not working in your location.
Surfshark’s NoBorders feature is useful for bypassing censorship. It detects when you are connected to a restricted network or in a country with government censorship, and automatically redirects your traffic to access restricted content.
Price and Value for Money
Surfshark’s three subscription plans come with the same premium features and differ only in length.
The 12-month and 24-month plans come with significant discounts that make this VPN cheap and affordable for long-term use.
A month-to-month subscription is a bit pricier, but the cost is still very reasonable for the value this VPN provides.
Does Surfshark Have a Free Version?
Surfshark doesn’t have a free version, but it does offer a 7-day free trial for mobile users. You can activate your free trial by downloading the app from Google Play or the Apple App Store.
Surfshark’s Refund Policy
You get a 30-day, money-back guarantee on all subscriptions.
If you submit a refund request within 30 days of signing up, you will receive a full refund. You can submit your request via email or live chat. When I tested this, Surfshark asked me a few questions to find out which aspects of the service I didn’t like.
Is Surfshark Compatible with My Device?
Surfshark is compatible with all major operating systems.
It has feature-rich apps for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Chrome, and Firefox. There are also apps for some smart TVs, including FireTV and Apple TV.
You can use its SmartDNS feature to connect devices that don’t normally support VPN connections, like your Xbox and PlayStation. You can use SmartDNS to unblock and watch US-based content, but it doesn’t change your IP or encrypt your traffic.
I noticed some feature inconsistencies between Surfshark’s apps. For example, its Windows and Android apps let you choose your preferred VPN protocol, but the macOS and iOS apps don’t.
I was relieved to find that all of its apps have an automatic kill switch, CleanWeb, NoBorders mode, and MultiHop.
Another wonderful benefit of a Surfshark subscription is that it allows unlimited simultaneous connections. This means you can connect all your computers, phones, tablets, and other devices, and use them all at the same time without needing to sign up for multiple VPN subscriptions.
Surfshark keeps all users safe with robust AES 256-bit encryption, and provides optional ChaCha encryption for Android users. It supports OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols, as well as Shadowsocks protocol for Windows. Shadowsocks is an open-source encrypted proxy. It’s another helpful tool to bypass strict internet censorship, especially in areas like China.
It’s usually best to stick with an OpenVPN connection for the best security. Surfshark’s macOS and iOS apps use IKEv2 by default, but you can manually configure an OpenVPN connection if you prefer.
Windows, iOS, and Android apps allow you to choose between TCP and UDP OpenVPN connections.
Surfshark Customer Service
I was pleased with the quality of Surfshark’s customer service. I found the 24/7 live chat support team to be responsive, friendly, and informative.
When you submit a question, the chat box tells you your position in the queue:
After less than a minute of waiting, a representative joined the chat to answer our question.
The live chat support functioned exactly as advertised. Since customer service is such an important part of a premium VPN service, Surfshark’s high quality customer support is a huge plus.
Surfshark’s minimalist user interface is designed for ease of use. The native app is both aesthetically pleasing and a breeze to navigate.
On the left is a clear list of all server locations, along with a search bar to help you quickly find what you’re looking for.
At the bottom right is a Quick Connect button that will automatically connect you to the most optimal server based on your location.
The intuitive platform makes for a smooth user experience, even for beginners.
When you first open Surfshark on a new device, the app gives you some help with the login and installation process. For example, the app walks you through the process of giving permissions. It also has a separate interface for the MultiHop feature (Surfshark’s version of Double VPN), which is equally user-friendly.
The Settings menu is simple and straightforward. Even if you’re new to VPNs, you should have no trouble taking advantage of Surfshark’s advanced features. Surfshark’s mobile app is also attractive and easy to use:
Surfshark has created a positive user experience with its well-designed native apps. The interface is clear for both first-time VPN users using basic functions and experienced users using more advanced settings.
It’s rare to find a VPN app design with no discernible flaws, but I was very impressed with what Surfshark has accomplished.
One of our primary concerns when reviewing a VPN is what kind of value it offers. Do you get a lot for what you pay for, or do you get less than the competition? Surfshark has numerous additional privacy features and takes the unusual move of placing no limits on the number of devices that can use a single account, making it an excellent value—even if the asking price is a bit high. The company also deserves credit for the efforts it is making to improve transparency.
What Is a VPN?
When you switch on a VPN, it creates an encrypted tunnel between your computer and a server operated by the VPN company. By piping all of your web traffic through this tunnel, your traffic appears as if it is coming from the VPN server rather than your computer—thus hiding your IP address. This makes it much harder for spies, advertisers, and your ISP to track your activities online. That last one is important, as ISPs can now sell your anonymized data for a profit.
While VPNs are powerful tools, they can't solve all your privacy and security problems. The Tor network provides better anonymity and you have other threats to worry about, so use antivirus, two-factor authentication, and a password manager.
Pricing and Features
Surfshark currently costs $11.95 per month, $71.88 every year, or $47.76 every two years. That's a steep discount, but that's not too unusual in the VPN market. I recommend starting with the shortest possible subscription, to make sure it works for you, and then increasing to longer subscription terms if you decide you like the service.
I compare only the full monthly fees in my reviews, and Surfshark is on the high side. The average price of one of PCMag's top-rated VPNs is $10.10 per month. At $11.95 per month, Surfshark costs the same per month as NordVPN (which is on the expensive side), and is far beyond the $5.54 per month asked for by Mullvad.
If that's too rich for your blood, there are numerous cheap VPNs and even a few worthy free VPNs to consider. ProtonVPN fits into both categories, and is especially notable because it is one of the only free VPNs that does not have a data limit.
While expensive, Surfshark does offer excellent value for that money. For one thing, it lets you use an unlimited number of devices on one account, whereas most companies cut you off after just five simultaneous connections. CyberGhost offers seven connections out of the box and ExpressVPN an even more generous 10, but you can't beat unlimited. Avira Phantom VPN, Encrypt.me VPN, Ghostery Midnight, and Windscribe VPN are the only other VPNs that place no limit on simultaneous connections.
Surfshark allows P2P and BitTorrent via VPN on certain servers, and the CleanWeb tool provides ad-blocking as well. Its real strengths, however, are the rarely seen features it provides. One such feature is Whitelister, a split-tunneling tool that routes app traffic or websites outside the VPN tunnel. Letting you whitelist websites is smart, since some sites block access from VPNs. These can be anything from video streaming sites to banks. Surfshark's solution is very tidy, going beyond most of the competition.
The other unusual feature is Multihop, which creates a VPN connection to a server and then bounces your traffic to a second VPN server for even greater security. Few competitors offer this feature, which trades enhanced privacy for speed. Both Multihop and Whitelister are powerful tools, and while you might not use them every day (or ever), they help justify Surfshark's high price. More on these features below.
One rare feature Surfshark currently does not offer is access to Tor via VPN, which is available through NordVPN and ProtonVPN. Notably, ProtonVPN also offers multihop and split-tunneling.
Many VPN companies allow you to purchase add-ons to your base subscription. TorGuard, for instance, has an à la carte option for the number of simultaneous connections you want. NordVPN and others offer private static IP addresses, which are useful any time you find your VPN connection blocked. Surfshark includes static IP addresses in its subscription, but you have to share those with other users on the same server.
There are many different ways to create a VPN connection. My preferred option is OpenVPN, which has a reputation for speed and reliability. More importantly, it's an open-source option, meaning that its code is available to be examined for potential vulnerabilities. Surfshark offers OpenVPN in its Android, iOS, Linux, and Windows apps. The excellent IKEv2 protocol is also available on all platforms and is default for macOS.
While OpenVPN is the top of the pile for VPN technology now, WireGuard seems to be the future for all VPNs. This is still experimental open source technology, and it has not yet had the same level of scrutiny as OpenVPN, but it impressed me when I tried it out for myself. Notably, NordVPN has begun to roll out WireGuard to its Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS clients.
Servers and Server Locations
Geographic distribution matters because having lots of locations across the globe to choose from means you're more likely to find one close to home or wherever you might be traveling, and it provides lots of options for spoofing your location. Surfshark covers 64 countries with its servers, which is above average. ExpressVPN leads the pack with a whopping 94 countries, and CyberGhost is close behind with 90 countries.
Surfshark provides above-average coverage to South America and Africa, both regions often ignored by other companies. Surfshark also offers servers in countries with repressive internet policies, including China, Russia, Turkey, and Vietnam. Competitors would do well to follow Surfshark's example.
Some VPNs make use of so-called virtual servers. These are software-defined servers, meaning that a single hardware server could host numerous virtual servers. The technology allows companies to quickly add servers to meet demand, or configure a server to appear in a country where the company cannot guarantee the safety of its hardware while really being hosted in a safer locale. In general, I don't have a problem with virtual servers, but I do believe that companies need to be transparent about which servers are virtual and provide the true location of the server. Surfshark clearly labels its four virtual locations (Albania, Chile, Costa Rica, and Slovenia), all of which are hosted on machines in the Netherlands.
In terms of total server count, Surfshark offers 1,724 total servers, putting its server fleet on the high end of mid-range. CyberGhost and NordVPN lead the industry with 5,900 and 5,300 servers, respectively. ExpressVPN, Hotspot Shield VPN, Private Internet Access VPN, and TorGuard VPN all boast over 3,000 servers. It's important to keep in mind that more servers does not always translate into better performance, and that total server count is partly a function of how many subscribers a company, well, serves.
Your Privacy With Surfshark
In general, Surfshark appears to be doing a good job of protecting user privacy. That said, security only works with trust. If you feel you cannot trust a company, look elsewhere.
In its policy documents, Surfshark stresses that it does not log IP addresses, browsing history, amount of bandwidth used, network traffic, or even connection timestamps. That's exactly what you want to hear from a VPN company. I suspect the company is able to provide that level of anonymity in part because it places no limits on the number of devices or connections, so it does not need to police its users as carefully.
The company does collect some information, including aggregate analytical data, as well as account information and billing history. The company also notes that it receives advertising IDs from third parties, citing Google Play as an example. These are identifiers that you can reset yourself, and are used in place of unchangeable IDs like your phone's IMEI. A representative from Surfshark explained to me that these IDs are used to determine whether the company's advertising is driving installations. The app does not have ads within it. I appreciate the disclosure in its documentation, but Surfshark should better contextualize how these IDs are used.
Company representatives have told me that it is a highly decentralized organization, with offices in Cyprus, Germany, and the United Kingdom and remote employees in China, Finland, India, Lithuania, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Ukraine, and the US. I appreciate the company's transparency on this point.
Surfshark says that it relies on "trusted third-party data centers." A representative told me the company is migrating to RAM-only servers, which would prevent the recovery of information were the server forcibly removed. As of April 2020, Surfshark reports that 70 percent of its servers have been moved to RAM-only, and the company predicts it will conclude the migration by June of that year. A few companies, such as ExpressVPN, made this change long ago.
The company has a live Warrant Canary on its site which doubles as a transparency report. Most warrant canaries are a single line that, when removed, subtly indicate that the company has received a National Security Letter or similar request, which would prevent Surfshark from disclosing the existence of the letter. Like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, if Surfshark removes the page, something bad is going on. This page is a little different, in that it reports the number of requests for information the company has received. If contacted by law enforcement for information, the company says it would be unable to identify an individual user.
Many VPN companies have begun commissioning third-party audits to verify company statements about customer privacy and security. Surfshark has commissioned one such audit of its Firefox and Chrome browser plug-ins in 2018, which earned a glowing review from auditors at Cure53. While an examination of the plug-ins is certainly valuable, I do not feel that it goes far enough to evaluate the company's privacy practices nor the security and efficacy of its core VPN product. Hopefully, future audits will provide that assurance. The company says it will release a new audit sometime in 2020. TunnelBear, by contrast, has committed to annual audits of its service.
Hands On With Surfshark
In this review, I tested Surfshark on an Intel NUC Kit NUC8i7BEH (Bean Canyon) desktop running the latest version of Windows 10. On Windows, Surfshark offers a small, stylish app with flat colors and smart design that expands and contracts to show more or less information. It looks like how you'd expect a modern app to look. I especially like that it has a clear, obvious way to immediately get online, and that it lets you select specific servers, and not just entire countries. It's not quite as friendly as TunnelBear, but it's very clean in the way that the best mobile apps are. In fact, it looks quite a bit like a mobile app, floating on a Windows desktop.
You can select a server at the country or city level, and see the load on that server. You can also favorite a location for future use. It does not appear to be possible to choose between individual servers at the same location—an advanced feature which can be useful if you are having trouble accessing certain sites and services.
Surfshark offers a surprising number of advanced features, such as split-tunneling, which it calls Whitelister, as mentioned above. This tool lets you determine which sites and applications should be routed outside the VPN tunnel by adding URLs or applications to a list. Anything on the whitelist won't be slowed down by the VPN, or be blocked if the site or service blocks VPN users. It also won't be encrypted. It's a handy tool if you have low-security tasks that need bandwidth, such as video streaming, or critical sites that block VPN usage, such as some banks.
A sort of opposite of Whitelister is Multihop, which does exactly what it says on the tin. You can have your VPN connection go through multiple VPN servers instead of just one. This further obscures your online activities, even to parts of Surfshark's infrastructure, a bit like a very simplified Tor Network. The downside is that you'll experience even more latency and reduced upload and download speeds. You can't arbitrarily choose two locations, unfortunately. Despite that, it's a rare feature that I am glad to see included in the app.
Also of note is Camouflage Mode, which disguises your VPN traffic as normal HTTPS web traffic. Other VPNs include this feature under different names (TunnelBear calls it GhostBear, for instance), and it's especially useful if you're in a region that blocks the use of VPNs.
A concern with VPNs is that they may leak your DNS information or IP address. In my testing, I found that Surfshark successfully hid my true IP and ISP information. Using the DNS Leak Test tool, I confirmed that at least on the server I was using, Surfshark did not leak my DNS requests to my ISP.
Surfshark and Netflix
Depending on where you live, video streaming services such as Netflix might serve you different content. With a VPN, you can spoof your location jumping to a distant VPN location to access content not available at home. For this very reason, Netflix aggressively blocks the use of VPNs.
Fortunately, that shouldn't be an issue with Surfshark. I had no trouble streaming from Netflix while connected to a US VPN server. Keep in mind, however, that Netflix is locked in a cat-and-mouse game with VPN companies. A service that works today may not work tomorrow.
In order to stand out in an increasingly crowded market, several VPN companies have begun adding additional features to their products beyond the scope of VPN protection. TunnelBear, for instance, has a stand-alone password manager called Remembear and a bear themed ad-blocking browser plug-in. Hotspot Shield VPN is perhaps the best example. Sign up there, and you get a Pango account that connects you to a host of privacy and security products included in the subscription fee. Both ProtonVPN and TorGuard have encrypted email services: ProtonMail and Private-Mail, respectively.
Surfshark has built out several privacy tools that go beyond VPN protection: a custom DNS service that provides additional privacy called Smart DNS; an ad-blocker branded as CleanWeb; HackLock, which alerts you if your accounts have been compromised, similar to HaveIBeenPwned; and a privacy-respecting organic search tool called BlindSearch. Note that both HackLock and BlindSearch require an additional $.99 per month. It's a good start, but not particularly compelling given the high price of the core service.
Speed and Performance
When you switch on a VPN, you're adding more machines and physical distance to your internet connection, resulting in degraded performance. To get a sense of that degradation, I calculate a percent change between batches of tests run with a VPN and those without, using the Ookla Speedtest tool. To read the nitty-gritty about how we test VPNs, be sure to read the aptly titled feature How We Test VPNs. (Note that Ookla is owned by Ziff Davis, which also owns PCMag.)
In my tests, I found that Surfshark decreased upload speed tests scores by a mere 4.5 percent over baseline, the best result I've yet seen for this test. The service performed remarkably well in both the latency and download tests, coming in just below the top score in both. It decreased download speed test results by 28.3 percent and increased latency by just 35.3 percent.
You can see in the chart below how Surfshark compares with the top nine performers among the approximately 40 services we tested.
Keep in mind that my results came from using this VPN at a particular time of day and at a particular place. Your results will surely differ, but this method does allow me to make a comparison between services while controlling for variables. My testing has shown that, for now, Hotspot Shield VPN is the fastest VPN service out there, but Surfshark is close behind. That said, speed alone should never be the main concern when shopping for a VPN.
Surfshark on Other Platforms
Surfshark has Android VPN, iOS VPN, macOS VPN, and Windows VPN client apps. The company also offers an app for FireTV, which is a bit of a rarity. There are Surfshark plug-ins for the Chrome and Firefox browsers. Note that VPN browser plug-ins do spoof your location, but they typically encrypt your traffic via TLS instead of a VPN protocol like OpenVPN.
The company offers its custom DNS resolver for Xbox and PlayStation, but does not offer apps for those platforms. It also offers instructions for using Surfshark on Linux and for configuring routers to use Surfshark.
Safe, Speedy Surfing
We get pitched a lot of new VPN services every year, most of them small and unremarkable or creepy and potentially dangerous. It is a pleasure to see a new VPN service that gets so much right. Surfshark has a generous unlimited devices policy, letting you hook up as many devices as you like. In addition to the VPN protection provided by its excellent desktop applications, it also provides rarely seen features such as split-tunneling and multihop VPN. Surfshark can also boast some of the best speed test results we've seen this year. The company has also worked to improve its transparency and overhauled its privacy policies. Overall, it's an excellent product.
Surfshark does have drawbacks. It's expensive, and we'd like to see its audits become more encompassing, going beyond browser plug-ins. We also want to see the company complete the security improvements to its servers. It's already a strong product, and just a hair behind Editors' Choice winners ProtonVPN and TunnelBear.
Unlimited simultaneous connections
Rarely seen multihop and split-tunneling tools
Excellent speed test scores.
Must complete broader audits of its service
Improvements to servers incomplete.
The Bottom Line
Surfshark VPN's comparatively high price is balanced against unlimited devices per account and an excellent set of features.