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Surfshark review

Surfshark is a feature-heavy VPN at an unbelievable price

Surfshark VPN review
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

As long as you’re willing to take out a two-year contract, Surfshark is one of the best value VPNs on the market today. Not only does it offer unbeatable value for money, but it also comes with more or less every feature you could need and a generous unlimited device policy.

For

  • Incredibly well priced
  • Quick and reliable support service
  • Unblocks all major streaming sites
  • Really simple to use

Against

  • OpenVPN speeds under par
  • Unreliable kill switch
  • Barebones security audit

It may be cheap, but Surfshark is consistently ranked among the best VPN platforms available. As well as being budget-friendly, this powerful VPN boasts a huge range of advanced features and works in practically any location.

With clients for all the most popular operating systems and some serious technology under the hood, including AES-256-GCM encryption and WireGuard compatibility, Surfshark has proven to be a low-priced but excellent option for many. And there’s no limit to the number of devices you can run the VPN on simultaneously – which is more than the rest of the market leaders can say.

In this review, we’ll walk you through the key features that make this VPN 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.

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're likely to get it for even less.

Surfshark hits all the basics like AES-256 encryption and over 3,000 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 our your connections, and added extras such as an ad blocker (which, admittedly, isn't quite as good dedicated apps), and a kill switch. We do think the kill switch could be refined, however, as it's quite heavy handed.

In terms of logs Surfshark's published policies impress, and its base in the British Virgin Islands is a positive. However, while it undertook an audit of its browser extensions in 2018, we'd love to see another audit of the full package.

Speeds are impressive when WireGuard is used, topping out at around 200Mbps on UK and US locations. Even on overloaded servers speeds were perfectly acceptable, but we were disappointed with OpenVPN speeds of around 100Mbps. That's not terrible, though, 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. Torrenting, while not advertised, is also available, and wide P2P support means you should get good speeds all round.

Surfshark's apps are intuitive and simple—perhaps too simple for hardened VPN veterans, but for most they'll be easy to use and provide plenty to play with. Mobile apps are much the same, with stable connections and a friendly, usable interface. The unlimited connections policy really comes into its own when you start adding all your mobile devices.

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

Surfshark VPN review - homepage

(Image credit: Surfshark)

Latest updates

Surfshark is pretty good in terms of staying up to date, and the most recent change is the addition of over 1,500 new servers, which takes the total up to a respectable 3,200+. That solves one of the service's minor issues from previous reviews—while 1,700 was enough, it couldn't match up to the class leaders.

Also, full WireGuard integration is fairly fresh, and this has helped boost Surfshark's speeds to near the top of the pack.

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.

Plus, if you’re lucky enough to catch it, Surfshark also occasionally throws in free months (at the time of writing, a three-free-month offer had dropped the equivalent monthly price to just $2.21 a month). All things told, this is one of the best-value plans on the market for a VPN of Surfshark’s quality.

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.

If you’re still not convinced, don’t worry: 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.

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.

Finally, if you don’t manually activate the kill switch and your connection does drop out, not only will you be surfing without protection, but you won’t be warned about the connection failure via a notification either.

Surfshark VPN review - server list

(Image credit: Surfshark)

Does Surfshark keep logs?

Because of Surfshark’s 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 by the leading security company Cure53. Still, this audit only covered the provider’s browser extensions, and little else. What’s more, this was completed in November 2018, and there is no privacy policy in place to back up the provider’s claims.

All the same, we were pleased to see that the Cure53 audit only revealed two minor discrepancies. Overall, we were pleased by the privacy provided by the VPN’s browser extensions, a feature that can often be vulnerable to privacy and anonymity breaches.

How fast is Surfshark?

Surfshark is a fast VPN—under certain circumstances. In our tests, we didn't experience any connection issues whatsoever, and the connection speeds were actually quicker than usual.

When we tested the software on a UK data center, we were slightly disappointed by the OpenVPN results. The average was a poor 70–90 Mbps speed. Carrying out the same test from a location in the US, we did see a slight improvement with speeds averaging 100–105Mbps, but in comparison, in our last ExpressVPN review, we experienced speeds of 200–220Mbps.

Next, we completed a speed test using WireGuard instead of OpenVPN, which Surfshark uses as a standard. We were very impressed by the result.

Our speeds from a UK data center almost doubled, to an average of 150 Mbps, and hit over 200 Mbps from a handful of US locations. Although NordVPN achieved more than 300 Mbps with its advanced NordLynx protocol, achieving over 200 Mpbs is still commendable and should be more than enough for the vast majority of users.

As well as looking for the best speeds, we also wanted to seek out the worst. For this task, we selected the most distant servers with the most overwhelming loads. Again, we were impressed by the result. Connecting from the UK to Argentina resulted in average speeds of 30–35Mbps—even with an incredibly overloaded server.

On the whole, Surfshark is a good-performing VPN, and there are only the odd occasions when this performance slips. That said, speed depends on location and the servers you use, so we would suggest that you try these out during the first 30 days so you don’t get caught out after you commit.

How good is Surfshark for streaming?

Surfshark is brilliant for unblocking streaming sites. Many other VPN providers make this claim, but don't live up to their promises; Surfshark is different. 

As a Netflix VPN, Surfshark is very comprehensive. Not only does it unblock Netflix in 15 jurisdictions, but it lists the ones in which it works. As of today, those countries include the US, Australia, Italy, France, and Japan, amongst others.

In our tests, we had no issue accessing US Netflix from five separate locations, so the promises weren't superfluous. But the success didn't stop here. We were equally impressed with its other unblocking capabilities too.

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.

As a streaming VPN for sites other than Netflix, Surfshark worked faultlessly as well, enabling us to access Disney+ and US Amazon Prime too.

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 Surfshhark 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 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 conclusive.

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. That said, if an issue does persist, you can access Surfshark's live chat option 24/7.

We tested the service and received a response in under a minute. It was less of a personal service and more of a script-focused conversation, but this diagnostic process probably works nine times out of ten.

Still, as the conversation persisted, the agent did divert from the script and gave us a solid fix to the connection issue we had flagged within a half-hour time frame.

For the low price tag, we were pleased to see the live support functionality.

Final verdict

With Surfshark, you’ll get a very capable VPN, packed with features, at a surprisingly low price. It does have its issues—a support site that requires updating and the need for a more recent audit—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 has more advanced features, more locations, and a level of customer service that’s unbeatable.

  • 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