Surfshark VPN Review

Surfshark is a bargain, but can it compete with the very best?

Surfshark VPN review
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Surfshark is a highly polished and powerful VPN that competes with the very best premium providers, all while offering a seriously tempting price point. I found some minor issues with the kill switch, and OpenVPN speeds aren't the best, but at this price, you won't find a better VPN.

Pros

  • +

    Introductory offer is excellent value

  • +

    Seriously fast WireGuard connections

  • +

    Excellent streaming performance

  • +

    Live-chat support is very helpful

Cons

  • -

    Heavy stress-testing caused kill switch to fail

  • -

    Fairly significant price hike after first term

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Founded in 2018, Surfshark is still something of a new kid on the block, but in those four years it has rapidly grown to become one of the most highly rated and widely recommended services in the VPN industry. And, in a recent merger with Nord Security, the Netherlands-based provider has now got some serious financial clout behind to it supercharge its development.

With a healthy 3,200 servers in 100 locations, industry-standard AES-256-GCM encryption, a wide range of protocols and a generous unlimited simultaneous connections policy, on paper there's a lot to like – but in practice can it live up to the hype?

In my comprehensive Surfshark review, I'll run down the key features that make Surfshark a tempting provider, and why it's so popular amongst both new and experienced users. You’ll learn whether any sacrifices were made to keep the price so low, or if you really are getting a top-of-the-range VPN for just a few dollars a month. 

To head to a particular part of the review, just click the navigation bar at the top of the page. Otherwise, just keep scrolling for everything you need to know about Surfshark.

Surfshark 1-minute review

Surfshark's biggest draw is its price, and without any special deals, the 2-year plan comes in at an excellent $2.49 a month. However, VPN deals often crop up where Surfshark drops below $2 a month. Shorter plans are much pricier, with a single month costing $12.95. To save on your plan, check out our Surfshark VPN promo codes

Be aware that the price will rise after your initial 2-year term, though, so make a reminder to check the small print before you renew. I'd recommend cancelling and bagging yourself a fresh plan to save money.

The Surfshark One package adds on antivirus, data leak alerts, and a private search engine – but this comes at an additional cost of around $1.50 a month.

With industry-standard AES-256 encryption and fully audited servers, Surfshark ticks the basic online privacy boxes. Split tunneling comes as standard, which is excellent for torrenting and separating out your connections, and a kill switch on PC and Mac. In my rigorous stress testing, I did find a small issue with the kill switch, but in real-world use, this is very unlikely to happen. 

Surfshark is a fast, powerful VPN that's great for streaming and staying private – and its appeal is only enhanced by its strikingly cheap price tag.

Beyond those basics, though, Surfshark has really pushed the boat out in terms of features. GPS spoofing, URL and ad blocking, multi-hop (routing through two consecutive servers for added privacy), wide P2P support, additional password tech which will alert you of leaks, and an ‘invisible to devices’ mode, which can hide your device from others on the same network. The new Nexus feature also rotates your IP seamlessly. Hardly slim pickings, then.

In my testing for this review, Surfshark was the fastest VPN I tested, topping out at an incredible 950Mbps on my 1Gbps connection when using WireGuard. It's never been slow, but this result is seriously impressive. OpenVPN speeds are passable at around 190Mbps, but hardly class-leading, but few will be using the old legacy protocol now.

Surfshark really shines when it comes to streaming, and you'll be able to unblock Netflix, iPlayer, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and more. In this area, there's not a lot to be improved at all.

Customer support is good, with articles and live chat available. The articles aren't the gold standard, but suffice for most issues. The live chat is comprehensive, if mostly script-led, but in more in-depth circumstances operators do break from the script and offer useful advice.

Overall, Surfshark is a fast, powerful VPN that's great for streaming and staying private – and its appeal is only enhanced by its strikingly cheap price tag.

Surfshark VPN review - homepage

(Image credit: Surfshark)
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Latest updates

  • WireGuard speeds have soared to 950Mbps, making it the fastest provider in this round of testing
  • Linux app has a full GUI, hugely increasing usability
  • Number of countries has risen to 100
  • Manual WireGuard connections now available, which experts will appreciate
  • IP rotating tool Surfshark Nexus has launched, but is yet to be fully fleshed out. There's definitely potential for a powerful tool in the future, though
  • Perhaps old news, but Surfshark merged with Nord Security in February 2022

Surfshark on paper

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Number of servers3,200+Row 0 - Cell 2
Server countries100Row 1 - Cell 2
Supported platformsWindows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux (GUI), Fire TV, Apple TV, other TVs, PlayStation, Xbox, Chrome & Firefox (browser extensions)Row 2 - Cell 2
Simultaneous connectionsUnlimitedRow 3 - Cell 2
Split tunnelingYesRow 4 - Cell 2
Kill switchYesRow 5 - Cell 2
Protocols supportedWireGuard, OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, IKEv2Row 6 - Cell 2
Country of registrationNetherlandsRow 7 - Cell 2
Support24/7 live chat, email, knowledgebaseRow 8 - Cell 2

Surfshark price and payment

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Plan lengthOverall costMonthly cost
1 month$12.95$12.95
1 year$47.88$3.99
2 years$59.76$2.49 ($2.05 with Tom's Guide deal

When you look at the cost of Surfshark’s service on a regular monthly plan, it doesn’t appear that reasonable. In fact, at $12.95 per month, it’s actually considerably more expensive than some of its competitors.

Pay for a year in one go, the price drops to $3.99 per month, but select the two-year plan and you’ll notice an even huger drop in price. The longest option on offer, 24-month plan is just $2.49 a month standard, which undercuts just about every other premium VPN. However, deals throughout the year can drop this below $2, which really is excellent value.

Some users will undoubtedly be put off by signing up for a lengthy plan, but it’s such a cheap VPN when compared to other services of its ilk that it’s well worth it. Your first two years of access to Surfshark will incur a one-off payment of $59.76. In comparison, NordVPN costs almost exactly the same for a single year.

There’s a ‘but’ here, though. While that $2.49-a-month price is seriously tempting, do be aware that upon renewal you’ll be paying more than that – $4.98 a month to be exact. While that’s still cheaper than many alternatives, I recommend bearing it in mind when the first two years are up. 

If you can remember to, it's worth checking out prices on offer to new customers before you renew. It's likely to save you a bunch of cash if you're happy with the service.

Surfshark has also recently launched Surfshark One, which offers the standard VPN features, plus  Avira-powered antivirus, data breach monitoring and privacy-friendly internet search. It's a good bundle for just $1.49 a month extra, and I can see a lot of customers going for this.

When it comes to payment options, you might be surprised by the variety on offer. It’s possible to pay for Surfshark with most leading credit cards, various cryptocurrencies, PayPal, Alipay, Google Pay, and Amazon Pay too.

Does Surfshark have a free trial?

If you use Mac, iOS or Android, you can also make use of a 7-day VPN free trial, but unfortunately there's no such option for Windows. If you really want to fully test out the service, though, I'd recommend making the most of the 30-day money-back guarantee.

Surfshark VPN review - unlimited device policy

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How private is Surfshark?

Surfshark is packed with all the core privacy features you need in a VPN. You’ll find AES-256 encryption, plus the secure protocols OpenVPN UDP and TCP, IKEv2, and WireGuard.

However, there are also a number of advanced features you won't see in every bargain-basement provider. Surfshark utilizes a private DNS on every one of its server servers that enables users to add an extra layer of protection and prevent third parties from intercepting browsing sessions. 

The service also adopts a VPN chaining mechanism. This system enables users to route their traffic through two separate servers. It can be accessed using the MultiHop button and essentially enables users to connect to one location and exit from another.

Surfshark utilizes a private DNS on every one of its server servers that enables users to add an extra layer of protection and prevent third parties from intercepting browsing sessions.

This means even if a cyber crook is able to access the exit server, they won’t be able to track down your IP address. Surfshark offers 15 routes. Server one is your connection location, which could be the UK, USA, Germany, Singapore, France, the Netherlands, India, or Australia.

The second is your exit location and where it appears to anyone looking into where you are located. Options for this are Germany, France, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Portugal, Sweden, Singapore, the UK, or the USA.

Surfshark Nexus is an interesting development, and although its only current function is as an IP rotator, the provider is promising big things. Watch this space.

Finally, Surfshark's servers have recently been audited by Cure53, as mentioned above. It's an essential step for proving any claims made in marketing material, and Surfshark's results were good. Cure53 found just four issues, none worse than 'medium', and these have been rectified. 

How secure is Surfshark?

Surfshark has an in-built Whitelister panel that enables you to create whitelists of apps, IP addresses, and websites that you can redirect around the VPN. This process is similar to split-tunneling, and if you do find that the VPN doesn't play nicely with an app or site, whitelisting it should fix the issue.

You can also set up the Whitelister so only your chosen apps and sites are routed through Surfshark. I tried it out and it worked perfectly, and I'm very pleased to see this feature in a desktop app – many VPN providers only offer it for mobile users.

Ads, malicious content, and web trackers are blocked using Surfshark’s CleanWeb feature. However, when I tried it out I wasn't overly impressed by the results. Using a dedicated tool like uBlock Origin enables you to block more content and have greater control over the action.

There is an option that enables you to activate the VPN automatically when you start Windows, and it’s also possible to toggle between different protocols depending on your security needs.

There is an option that enables you to activate the VPN automatically when you start Windows, and it’s also possible to toggle between different protocols depending on your security needs.

One of the most important security features on Surfshark is the kill switch. This enables you to disconnect from the internet automatically if your VPN connection is severed. 

A recent improvement is an alteration of how the kill switch works. Previously, Surfshark's kill switch was an all-or-nothing affair – if it was active, it would entirely block the internet unless you were connected to a Surfshark server. Now, it functions more typically – cutting your internet if your Surfshark VPN drops, but allowing you to browse normally if you've simply chosen not to activate the VPN

When I started terminating lower-level operations to really test the kill switch, it did have some small issues. When I terminated the Surfshark app the kill switch kicked in – good – but afterwards, when the kill switch was active, I couldn't access the internet. 

Also, when I closed Surfshark's Windows service, problems arose. Surfshark's connection dropped but the app continued to say that I was protected. Although hugely unlikely to happen real life, it's well worth me mentioning these small flaws, as other VPNs like ExpressVPN and NordVPN didn't suffer the same problems under the same testing.

Overall, in everyday usage the kill switch is effective, and only had issues when I simulated a situation that's unlikely ever to arise – and elsewhere Surfshark is one of the most secure VPNs on the market.

Surfshark VPN review - server list

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Logging

Surfshark is now based in the Netherlands, but just like its previous home of the BVI, local laws don’t require the provider to log many VPN-related activities. 

You'll find the full rundown of Surfshark’s logging policy on its FAQ page, but in brief, the service doesn’t collect IP addresses, internet activity history, VPN server location history, bandwidth usage, information regarding sessions, or timestamps.

All that is recorded is an email address and information for billing along with some anonymous statistical data. For example, this can include crash reports, statistical and performance data, and other similar stats.

In terms of security auditing, Surfshark has been audited twice by the leading security company Cure53 – once in 2018, dealing with browser extensions, and once in 2021, which was a more thorough audit of its servers. Thankfully the results of both were positive, and the few risks that were identified have been addressed.

Speed

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WireGuard950Mbps
OpenVPN190Mbps

In previous testing, Surfshark has never been a particularly slow VPN, but in my testing for this review it's come on leaps and bounds. In fact, it's joint-fastest with TorGuard out of all the providers I tested at a staggering 950Mbps.

That's a boost of over 100Mbps, and goes to show that the developers are putting hard yards to both improve and futureproof the service for when gigabit connections become more common worldwide.

When using OpenVPN, the picture wasn't quite as rosy. With maximum speeds of just 190Mbps, it's more than enough for a casual user, but nothing like the 400Mbps+ I saw from the likes of Private Internet Access and Mullvad

Does this really matter? Not for most people – WireGuard is very much the norm now, and Surfshark's default protocol, so I expect almost every user to be connecting with it.

Overall, there's absolutely nothing to worry about in terms of speed when it comes to Surfshark – it'll keep up with just about any connection on the planet.

How good is Surfshark for streaming?

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NetflixWorking (UK, US, CA, AU, JP)
PrimeWorking
YouTubeWorking
iPlayerWorking
Disney PlusWorking
10PlayWorking
9NowWorking
HuluWorking
ITV PlayerWorking
All4Working

Complementing that excellent performance is Surfshark’s near-perfect streaming capabilities. Many other VPN providers make claims about unblocking streaming sites but don't live up to their promises; Surfshark is different. 

As a Netflix VPN, Surfshark has historically been very capable. However, in the last year or so Netflix has changed its VPN blocking tech, and subsequently almost every VPN on the market has seen fluctuating results.

In my most recent testing, Surfshark was able to unblock every Netflix region I tried, which includes the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and Japan. That's right up there with the very best.

I was also able to watch content from US YouTube with ease, although this is probably the simplest block to navigate. I also had no trouble accessing BBC iPlayer – in my tests from three locations in the UK, each one was successful – and Disney+ and US Amazon Prime were unblocked too. A full house, then.

Overall, Surfshark is a seriously competent streaming VPN, and I highly recommend it for getting the most out of your subscriptions.

Surfshark review - streaming features

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How good is Surfshark for torrenting?

Surfshark can be used as a torrenting VPN, although this isn't one of its primary functions. To this end, the platform enables P2P support for most of its servers, and for additional anonymity, users can opt to pay for the service using cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin.

Another function that could help those keen to use Surfshark for torrenting is its whitelisting capabilities. You could single out your torrent client, enabling it to drive traffic through the VPN while your other internet traffic is channeled through a standard connection.

So, it'll do you just fine, but some providers like ExpressVPN offer P2P support on every server, and others like Private Internet Access have in-depth features like port forwarding, which may suit avid torrenters better.

How easy is it to install Surfshark?

Installing and connecting to Surfshark for the first time is a very straightforward procedure. For the purpose of this review, I downloaded the Windows app from the Surfshark website and was surprised to learn that I could sign up and pay for the service during the installation process.

To start the VPN, all I needed to do was tap the connect button. After this, a desktop notification appeared to tell us I was connected. Once selected, the interface displayed my IP location.

How good are Surfshark’s desktop apps?

So, setting up Surfshark's Windows app is very straightforward. After getting up and running, I tested Surfshark as a Windows 10 VPN, but if you want to install a Mac VPN, there's a client for this too.

In terms of versatility, the interface was more flexible than I expected and adapted as I played around with the sizing. Before resizing, the app displays a Connect button, information regarding current server status, and a menu containing server locations. When you expand the interface, it reveals different options and selectable panels.

Surfshark's Static IP list makes it possible to connect to servers in Singapore, the UK, Japan, and Germany so you can have a fixed IP address from a country of your choice every time you connect.

Although the list of locations doesn't explicitly show latency, icons are present that flag the best choices, while the Favorites tab is a handy way of storing the locations you use the most.

Surfshark's Static IP list makes it possible to connect to servers in Singapore, the UK, Japan, and Germany (the US server has been dropped since my last review) so you can have a fixed IP address from a country of your choice every time you connect.

Interestingly, Surfshark includes a NoBorders mode, which is essentially the in-house name for obfuscated servers. This clever technology should make it possible for you to log on to the VPN in countries and jurisdictions where they are usually prohibited – great for a China VPN.

As I mentioned earlier in this review, the Windows client also includes the MultiHop feature, Whitelister, and kill switch. You’ll find the same features in the Mac app too, although there are a couple of differences. 

On Mac, there's an auto-connect feature that gets you protected automatically if you join an untrusted network. However, the Bypasser (split tunneling) tool isn't present, which is a bit of a disappointment.

Although some minor improvements could be made to both desktop apps, I'm impressed by their functionality, and they're very straightforward to operate.

Surfshark review - mobile apps

(Image credit: Future)
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Mobile apps

As a mobile VPN, Surfshark is impressive. Some VPN providers appear to see mobile apps as an afterthought, but Surfshark's iPhone VPN and Android VPN are both very functional and packed with advanced features.

Aesthetically, the apps are very clean and easy to use. Small touches like dark mode (pictured on iOS above) make it seem well-rounded and a pleasure to use.

For this review, I tested the Android app and found it to be remarkably similar to the Windows client. There is a similar interface, the list of server locations is identical, and it's possible to use the split-tunneling, MultiHop, blocking, and whitelisting features too.

If you do run into any issues with the app, it's possible to send bug reports, raise a ticket, or search for support queries without having to navigate to the central support site.

Mobile users can take advantage of multiple support protocols including OpenVPN/IVEv2, and WireGuard, plus the same kill switch you'll find in the desktop version. However, Shadowsocks has been dropped, which is a shame.

On top of this, Surfshark's Android app enables you to optimize performance on mobile networks, automatically connect to the VPN in certain scenarios, and choose from multiple encryption methods – AES-256-GGM or Chacha20Poly1305. 

If you do run into any issues with the app, it's possible to send bug reports, raise a ticket, or search for support queries without having to navigate to the central support site.

This functionality, minus the Android-specific features like variable encryption options and split tunneling (unavailable on iOS in any form), is replicated in the iOS app too.

How good is Surfshark’s browser extension?

Surfshark has recently launched a Microsoft Edge extension, which completes the classic trifecta of proxy offerings along with Chrome and Firefox. This is now up to par with NordVPN and ExpressVPN, and is very welcome.

You can take advantage of all of Surfshark’s key features when using these browser extensions. You can connect to over 3,200 servers in 100 countries, benefit from the provider's private DNS technology, CleanWeb ad and malware blocking, and more.

What's more, Surfshark has also added a split tunneling feature to its extensions, and its great to see the developers putting effort into an oft-neglected areas of a VPN's suite.

What customer support does Surfshark offer?

Surfshark has a dedicated support site where you can get the answers to a number of queries. It includes FAQs, guides, and tutorials, which cover a decent range of issues, but it isn't entirely definitive.

The majority of the content is related to setup issues, although there is some focus on fundamental running queries. That said, the bulk of the articles lack the details you'd expect and could do with being longer.

At this price point, I'm impressed with how good the live chat is – so if there’s anything troubling you when using Surfshark, this will probably be your first port of call.

A revamp of the layout, however, has seen the search function greatly improved. It's now super simple to get the info that you need without trawling through disorganized menus.

If you’re in a rush, or can’t find what you’re looking for, there’s also a very capable team of live chat staff on hand that are prompt and helpful with their replies. At this price point, I'm impressed with how good the live chat is – so if there’s anything troubling you when using Surfshark, this will probably be your first port of call.

Should you buy Surfshark?

Surfshark is a mightily impressive service, with tons of features and class-leading performance. And, when you consider how cheap the introductory 2-year plan is, any small issues – like the poor OpenVPN speeds or slightly problematic kill switch – start to fade away. 

If you're just looking for a VPN that works reliably on tons of devices, will keep you anonymous online and can tap into a huge amount of global streaming sites, Surfshark is a seriously tempting option.

Sign up to Surfshark if:

  • You want the biggest bargain in the VPN industry
  • You want class-leading WireGuard speeds
  • You're looking to stream overseas content anywhere
  • You appreciate extra features like Multi-Hop and Nexus

Avoid if:

  • You're concerned about the minor kill switch issues
  • You don't want to be locked into a long 2-year contract
  • You require fast OpenVPN speeds

Mo is VPN Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees VPN, privacy, and cybersecurity content, and also undertakes independent testing of VPN services to ensure his recommendations are accurate and up to date. When he's not getting stuck into the nitty-gritty settings of a VPN you've never heard of, you'll find him working on his Peugeot 205 GTi or watching Peep Show instead of finally putting up those shelves.

  • tuanton
    Tried Surfshark from my location in Malaysia. My main interest was connecting to UK sites BBCiplayer/ITV Hub and other TV Catch Up sites. I took out a months subscription on trial and didn't get good results - continual lag which needed continual re-connection on most sites. I cancelled the subscription and received refund as promised. Later discovered I had problem with my laptop driver which I had fixed and this re-established my laptop fast internet speeds. Because of Surfshark pricing I was tempted to try again which I did, unfortunately with no improvement in the performance of Surfshark. I cancelled again and because I had previously tried there was no refund the second time, something worth remembering because most other companies did offer refunds for 2nd tries.
    I accept and think a lot depends on your location but certainly can't agree with Surfshark's 'Blazing Speeds' claims. Of the many VPN's I have tried to replace my expensive Express VPN subscription which is coming to an end, there have been others with much higher speeds. I was fortunate ultimately in discovering one that offered 7 days free trial without credit card and which turned in the best performance of all I had tried. In the end cheap is not always the best option.
    Reply
  • cyberfreak122
    I mainly use Surfshark to torrent and the speed doesn't drop much, but it's also important to use a server that's not overcrowded. As mentioned in the article the price is low even though it offers unlimited device logins which was what made me buy it, but I can now say that the service I get for the price this low is more than worth it in my books. Other than that, my lil sis really wanted to try out Disney+, so I had to help her set everything up. It was a bit messy but in the end everything works fine.
    Reply