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Surfshark VPN Review

Surfshark is excellent value, but can it duke it out with the very best?

Surfshark VPN review
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

With seriously tempting introductory prices, excellent streaming performance and a polished interface that puts more expensive providers to shame, Surfshark is one of the best-value VPNs on the market today. And with an unlimited device policy, you'll be able to install it on any and all your devices.

For

  • Well-priced introductory offer
  • Fresh security audit give peace of mind
  • Great for streaming
  • Excellent support

Against

  • Rare instances of kill switch failing
  • Speeds aren't class-leading (but close)

Tom's Guide Verdict

With seriously tempting introductory prices, excellent streaming performance and a polished interface that puts more expensive providers to shame, Surfshark is one of the best-value VPNs on the market today. And with an unlimited device policy, you'll be able to install it on any and all your devices.

Pros

  • +

    Well-priced introductory offer

  • +

    Fresh security audit give peace of mind

  • +

    Great for streaming

  • +

    Excellent support

Cons

  • -

    Rare instances of kill switch failing

  • -

    Speeds aren't class-leading (but close)

  • -

If you're looking to get one of the best VPN services on a budget, Surfshark may well be on your radar. Combining genuinely low prices with premium apps and plenty of functionality, it looks like the best of both worlds.

With a recently upgraded network of over 3,200 servers in 65 countries, unlimited simultaneous connections on a single plan and industry-standard AES-256-GCM encryption plus a good choice of protocols, on paper it looks like it should satisfy just about any user – but can it live up to that in use? 

In our in-depth Surfshark review, we run down the key features that make this a real contender, and 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

While shorter plans are comparatively expensive, sign up for two years and you'll get one of the best monthly rates available: just $2.49 a month. And, with regular deals and discounts, you might even get it for even less. For example, for Black Friday and beyond, Surfshark offered 3 free months, dropping the price to $2.21 a month. 

Be aware the price will rise after your initial term, though, so make a reminder to check the small print before you renew.

Surfshark hits all the basics like AES-256 encryption and over 3,200 servers, but you'll also get tons of additional features like MultiHop, which allows you to route through more than one server at a time. 

You'll also get a split tunneling feature, which is excellent for torrenting and separating out your connections, and a kill switch on PC and Mac. In our rigorous stress testing, the kill switch did fail a couple of times, but in real-world use, this is unlikely to happen. 

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 ‘invisible to devices’ mode, which can hide your device from others on the same network. Hardly slim pickings, then.

In terms of logs Surfshark's published policies impress, and its base in the British Virgin Islands is a positive. And, a big improvement is its recent server audit conducted in 2021.

Speeds are good when WireGuard is used, topping out at around 475Mbps. While that's not quite class-leading, it's certainly no slouch. However, we were disappointed with OpenVPN speeds of around 100-110Mbps. But, while that's hardly perfect, and most users will use WireGuard anyway.

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 powerful VPN, and its appeal is only enhanced by its strikingly cheap price tag.

Surfshark VPN review - homepage

(Image credit: Surfshark)

Latest updates

Surfshark has recently updated its iOS and Android apps, including widget support.

The Mac apps are now fully compatible with the new M1 chip, meaning seamless performance on whatever device you're using.

Surfshark's already good browser extensions now support split tunneling, which is a neat added feature that offers a genuine benefit.

Finally, while the full report was not published, Surfshark has gone through a full security audit of its servers. As always, this is great to see, and only increases our opinion of the service.

Surfshark on paper

Number of servers: 3,200+
Number of countries:
65+
Platforms supported:
Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Fire TV, Apple TV, other TVs, PlayStation, Xbox, Chrome & Firefox (browser extensions)
Simultaneous connections:
Unlimited
Split tunneling:
Yes
Kill switch:
Yes
Supported protocols:
WireGuard, OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, IKEv2
Country of registration:
British Virgin Islands
Support:
24/7 live chat, email, knowledgebase

Surfshark VPN price: how much is it, and is there a Surfshark free trial?

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 more expensive than some of its competitors.

If you opt to pay six months in one go, the price drops to $6.49 per month – still fairly pricey – but select the two-year plan and you’ll notice a huge drop in price. The longest option on offer, 24-month plan is just $2.49 a month, which undercuts just about every other premium VPN.

However, at the time of writing there's a VPN deal that offers three extra months on the two-year plan, bringing the price down to $2.21 a month. Great 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 completely worth it. Your first two years of access to Surfshark will incur a one-off payment of $59.76. In comparison, NordVPN costs $83.88 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, we recommend bearing it in mind when the first two years are up.

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 $1.99 a month extra, and we can see a lot of customers going for this.

If you fancy trying before you buy, you can make the most of a seven-day VPN free trial and test the service out on Mac, iOS, or Android. Although this isn’t a long trial and there is no option for Windows, many comparable VPN providers offer no trial at all. However, if you really want to test out the service, it could be worth just signing up and making use of the 30-day money-back guarantee if it doesn’t live up to your standards.

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.

Surfshark VPN review - unlimited device policy

(Image credit: Surfshark)

How private is Surfshark?

Surfshark is packed with privacy features. You’ll find all the classic privacy measures in place – AES-256 encryption, plus the secure protocols OpenVPN UDP and TCP, IKEv2, and WireGuard.

However, there are also a number of advanced privacy features. 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.

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.

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 disrupts 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. We tried it out and it worked perfectly. We were 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, we tried it out and weren’t overly impressed by the result. 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.

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. And we did have a few issues with it.

Firstly, there is no middle ground. The kill switch totally disables the internet unless you are connected to the VPN. In other words, you cannot use the internet at all unless Surfshark is running. A better option would be to sever the connection only if it is lost during a VPN browsing session. This is the standard method employed by VPN providers, enabling a user to continue browsing without having the VPN activated.

Secondly, there was no notification signalling that the kill switch had been activated and our connection forcibly closed.

One of our tests included simulating a failure of the Windows Surfshark Service, and then closing an IKEv2 connection. In this admittedly unlikely situation, the connection was terminated and the kill switch didn't activate. Plus, the app continued to display 'Connected' . 

Overall, though, in every day usage the kill switch is effective, and only had issues when we simulated a situation that's unlikely ever to arise in real terms.

Surfshark VPN review - server list

(Image credit: Surfshark)

Does Surfshark keep logs?

Because of Surfshark’s declared location, the British Virgin Islands, local laws don’t require the provider to log many VPN-related activities – and it doesn’t. This policy is comparable to that of ExpressVPN, which is located in the same jurisdiction.

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.

How fast is Surfshark?

Surfshark is a reasonably fast VPN. In our tests, we didn't experience any connection issues whatsoever, and the connection speeds were good.

When we tested the software on a UK data center capable of 1Gbps, we were slightly disappointed by the OpenVPN results – the average was a mediocre 100-110Mbps. However, switching to WireGuard made a huge difference, delivering speeds of up to 475Mbps – more than enough for just about any user. However, this is a little slower than we saw in our last round of testing.

Carrying out the same test from a location in the US, we saw slightly better OpenVPN speeds of 170Mbps. WireGuard speeds weren't quite as blazing as in the UK at around 300Mbps, but again, very few people have access to connections above 100Mbps, so this is unlikely to be an issue.

On the whole, Surfshark can deliver excellent connections, and if you’re working with a regular domestic line it won’t have a drastic impact on speeds. If you want to make the most of a gigabit connection, though, providers like NordVPN and IPVanish almost double Surfshark's WireGuard speeds.

How good is Surfshark for streaming?

Making up for the somewhat lacklustre performance figures, though, is Surfshark’s excellent streaming capabilities. Many other VPN providers make this claim, but don't live up to their promises; Surfshark is different. 

As a Netflix VPN, Surfshark has historically been very capable. However, in recent months Netflix has changed its VPN blocking tech, and subsequently almost every VPN on the market has seen reduced ability.

In our tests, we had no issue accessing US Netflix from five separate locations, but UK, Canada, Australia and Japan were unavailable. That's not surprising though, since out of all the VPNs we tested, only ExpressVPN and ProtonVPN could access Netflix beyond the US.

Elsewhere, though, Surfshark is one of the very best.

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

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

Surfshark review - streaming features

(Image credit: Surfshark)

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 users 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.

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, we downloaded the Windows app from the Surfshark website and were surprised to learn that we could sign up and pay for the service during the installation process.

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

How good are Surfshark’s desktop apps?

As we covered earlier in this review, setting up Surfshark's Windows app is very straightforward. We tested Surfshark as a Windows 10 VPN, but if you want to install a Mac VPN, there is a client for this too.

In terms of versatility, the interface was more flexible than we expected and adapted as we 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.

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, the US, and Germany so you can have a fixed IP address from a country of your choice every time you connect.

Interestingly, Surfshark includes a NoBorders mode. 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 we 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 some minor improvements could be made to the Windows app, we were impressed by its functionality, and it was very straightforward to operate.

Surfshark review - mobile apps

(Image credit: Future)

How good are Surfshark’s 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, we 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.

Mobile users can take advantage of multiple support protocols including OpenVPN/IVEv2, WireGuard, and Shadowsocks, plus the same kill switch you'll find in the desktop version.

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 two available browser extensions, one for Chrome and another for Firefox. This is slightly limited – other providers like ExpressVPN go the extra mile and include extra versions for Edge too – but the range of features included in Surfshark’s extensions is good.

You can take advantage of all of Surfshark’s key features when using either browser extension. You can connect to over 3,200 servers in 65 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 should 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.

In terms of finding the information you need, a lot of improvements could be made in regards to how the articles are organized. For example, if you type in “iOS” to the search bar, you receive a list of articles related to iOS issues, such as how to install Surfshark on an iOS device.

It would be much better to have an option, like the one provided by ExpressVPN’s customer support, where all iOS-related issues were dealt with in one document.

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

Final verdict

With Surfshark, you’ll get a very capable VPN, packed with features, at a surprisingly low initial price. It does have minor issues – namely slightly slower speeds than the very best – but it has benefited from some serious improvements recently, such as the introduction of WireGuard integration for iOS and Android apps.

One competing provider that we recommend is ExpressVPN. Although more expensive than Surfshark, it delivers better speeds, more locations, and a level of customer service that’s unbeatable.

But, if you're looking to save money and bag a premium-quality VPN, Surfshark should undoubtedly be your first port of call.

Kieron Allen

Kieron is a freelance science and technology journalist with more than a decade of experience writing for magazines in print and online. Today, his focus is on cybersecurity, blockchain, and emerging tech.