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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)

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. We found some very 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 super cheap

  • +

    Fresh security audit gives peace of mind

  • +

    Excellent streaming performance

  • +

    Support is very helpful

Cons

  • -

    Rare instances of kill switch failing

  • -

    Speeds aren't class-leading (but close)

Widely recommended on the web and founded in 2018, Surfshark is a relatively new service that's made some serious waves, and now dukes it out with the biggest providers to be considered the best VPN on the market.

Surfshark boasts a healthy 3,200+ servers in 65 locations and unlimited simultaneous connections, plus industry-standard AES-256-GCM encryption and a good choice of protocols. On paper it looks like a real contender, but in practice can it hold its own?

In our comprehensive Surfshark review, we run down the key features that make Surfshark a tempting provider, and why it's now 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 at the time of writing, the 2-year plan comes in at an excellent $2.30 a month, which includes 2 free months. Shorter plans are much pricier, with a single month costing $12.95.

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.

With industry-standard AES-256 encryption and fully audited servers, Surfshark ticks the basic online privacy boxes. You'll get split tunneling, which is excellent for torrenting and separating out your connections, and a kill switch on PC and Mac. In our rigorous stress testing, we did find a small issue with the kill switch, but in real-world use, this is very 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. The new Nexus feature also rotates your IP seamlessly. Hardly slim pickings, then.

Speeds are good when WireGuard is used, this time topping out at around 790Mbps. That's much better than our last test, and we hope the speeds remain stellar for the foreseeable. OpenVPN speeds are passable at around 140Mbps, but hardly class-leading.

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)
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Latest updates

Surfshark has recently introduced its Nexus feature, which is currently only an IP rotating tool. This changes your IP without disconnecting you on a regular basis. Nexus is still waiting to be fleshed out, so in the future it could become a standout feature.

Surfshark has relocated its official base of operations to the Netherlands, from the British Virgin Islands. On this matter, Surfshark claimed: "The Netherlands serves no legal obligation for companies to log or retain user data, thus we can continue upholding our strict no-logs policy.

"In making the decision to relocate our jurisdiction from the BVI to the Netherlands, we consulted with law firms and performed due diligence to make sure that logging and retaining data wouldn't be required."

The provider launched a Microsoft Edge extension.

WireGuard speeds are significantly improved.

Specs

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:
Netherlands
Support:
24/7 live chat, email, knowledgebase

Price

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 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 2 extra months on the two-year plan, bringing the price down to $2.30 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 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, 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 $1.49 a month extra, and we can see a lot of customers going for this.

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, we'd recommend making the most of the 30-day money-back guarantee.

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

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Privacy

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.

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. 

Security

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. 

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 we started terminating lower-level operation to really test the kill switch, it did have some small issues. When we terminated the Surfshark app the kill switch kicked in – good – but afterwards, when the kill switch was active, we couldn't access the internet. This was annoying and not solved by rebooting, but at least we were kept protected.

Overall, 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

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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

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

Since our last review, Surfshark's connections speeds have improved greatly. In the US, WireGuard speeds topped out at 792Mbps, and in the UK it reached 700Mbps. Connections were stable, and maintained these speeds each time we connected.

When using OpenVPN, the picture wasn't quite as rosy. With maximum speeds of just 150Mbps in both locations, it's more than enough for a casual user, but nothing like the 400Mbps+ we saw from the likes of ProtonVPN and Hide.me

Does this really matter? Not for most people – WireGuard is very much the norm now, and we expect almost every user to be connecting with it.

So, 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.

Streaming

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

We were also 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

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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.

So, it'll do you just fine, but other 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.

Installation

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.

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, and Germany (the US server has been dropped since our 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. 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)
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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, 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, 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.

Browser

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.

Support

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.

Verdict

Surfshark is a mightily impressive service, with tons of features and excellent 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 looking for the cream of the crop, we'd still recommend ExpressVPN (opens in new tab). Although more expensive than Surfshark, it delivers better speeds, more locations, and a level of customer service that’s unbeatable.

However, if you're just looking for a VPN that works reliably, and on tons of devices, Surfshark is a seriously tempting option.

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