Surfshark is an interesting VPN that’s packed with features, works almost everywhere, and has one of the best introductory offers around.
The network has 3,200+ servers (that’s almost doubled since our last review) spread across an impressive 160+ locations in 65 countries.
There are apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux, extensions for Chrome and Firefox, and a website-unblocking Smart DNS system for game consoles, TVs, and more.
Whatever you use, there’s no need to worry about pesky “simultaneous connection” limits – you can install and run Surfshark on as many devices as you want.
The service is strong on the technical basics, including strong AES-256-GCM encryption, WireGuard, OpenVPN and IKEv2 support, Shadowsocks to help you bypass VPN blocking, a no-logs policy, and a kill key to keep you safe , if your connection drops .
There is real depth here. Android apps can see through most VPNs by asking for your physical location, but not Surfshark – a GPS spoofing feature allows it to return the coordinates of your chosen VPN server.
Oh, there’s also URL and ad blocking, P2P support on most servers, VPN chain (use two servers in one hop), split tunneling, the company’s own zero-knowledge DNS servers, and 24/7 email and live chat support , if there are any it goes wrong.
Surfshark’s diskless servers provide added privacy and security as all data is deleted when shut down
Recent infrastructure improvements include Surfshark following ExpressVPN and NordVPN in moving to 100% diskless servers, greatly limiting the ability of hackers to compromise or extract information from the network.
Surfshark says the new password technology will “regularly evaluate your password based on the latest cybersecurity findings and send you a note if it needs to be changed.” There’s no information on how it works, so we can’t judge how useful it might be, but any additional password-related tips are always welcome.
App-related additions include an “Invisible to Devices” feature that hides your device from others on the network when you’re connected to a VPN, giving you an extra layer of protection. The Mac app now has a kill switch, new in-app notifications tell you about important accounts, payments or technical issues, and there are some small but welcome usability tweaks (smarter in-app location search means that logging into LV already found Latvia and Las Vegas, for example.)
Surfshark: Plans and Pricing
As you’ll find out from our dedicated Surfshark pricing and deals guide, the service’s monthly plan is more expensive than some at $12.95, and paying for six months upfront drops the cost to just $6.49.
The 12-month + 12-month free plan is a great deal for the first term at $2.49, though it doubles on renewal to $4.98 for the annual plan.
This initial price tramples most of the competition. Even Private Internet Access, one of the best VPNs around, lags behind a bit at $2.69 per month for the first term of its two-year plan.
The long-term $4.98 isn’t that impressive, but we think it’s a good value for what you get, and it still compares well with the annual plans of many other big names (HideMyAss! Asking $4.99; Hotspot Shield charges $6.99, ExpressVPN $8.32, ProtonVPN Plus plan is about $9.50.)
If price is high on your priority list, however, long-term plans from ZenMate ($1.64 per month for three years) or Ivacy ($1.33 for five) may be worth a look.
Surfshark’s seven-day free trial for Android, iOS, and Mac gives you some time to try out the service for yourself. We’d also like something longer, with Windows support, but it seems unfair to complain when many vendors don’t have trials at all.
Surfshark even offers more than you might expect with its range of payment methods, with support for credit cards, PayPal, cryptocurrencies, Amazon Pay, Google Pay and Ali Pay.
But if after all that you sign up and find that the company isn’t for you, no problem – you’re protected by a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Surfshark keeps no logs of its users and the service protects your connection with AES 256 encryption and a kill key.
Privacy and Registration
Surfshark’s privacy features start with VPN basics: secure protocols (OpenVPN UDP and TCP, WireGuard, IKEv2), AES-256 encryption, and a blocking key to block Internet access and prevent identity leakage if the connection ever fails. failed.
But this is only the beginning. Surfshark has its own private DNS on each server to reduce the chance of others spying on your activities. And being able to use a double VPN hop (connecting to Paris, say, then leaving the Surfshark network in New York) makes it even harder for anyone to follow your tracks.
Like ExpressVPN, Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands, and the company points out that this means it doesn’t need to keep logs of user activity.
A registration FAQ page spells this out, saying that Surfshark does not collect: “Incoming and outgoing IP addresses; Browsing, download or purchase history; VPN servers you use; Bandwidth used; Session information; connection timestamp; Network traffic. ‘
The only data the company stores about you is your email address and billing information, the FAQ explains.
The page said that Surfshark collects some anonymous, aggregated statistics — performance information, system usage frequency, failed connections, crash reports — but that detail has been removed. We don’t know why, but it’s not just because Surfshark no longer records this data, as there is still a “Collect anonymous crash reports” option in the Windows app’s settings box. Still, if you’re unhappy, you can limit data collection a bit by turning off the Crash Reports setting (an option you won’t get with all VPNs), and overall there’s nothing too surprising here.
The Surfshark website boasts that it has passed a security audit by German security company Cure53. And that’s true, but it was limited to checking Surfshark’s browser extensions, so it can’t tell us anything about logging or other background processes. And as it happened in November 2018, we’re not sure that tells us anything useful about the service as it stands today.
Still, it’s good to see that Cure53 found only two relatively minor issues and concluded that he was “very pleased to see such a strong security stance on Surfshark VPN extensions, especially given the general vulnerability of similar products to confidentiality’.
Getting started with Surfshark was easy. We downloaded and installed the Windows client, selected the registration option, and were even able to select a plan and submit a payment from the installer without the need for a third-party browser.
The Windows client interface is more flexible than most, adapting like a responsive website as you resize its window. At the very least, the client looks similar to any other VPN app, with a Connect button, status information, and a list of locations. But expand or maximize the client window and it reformats to show new panels and options.
Connecting is easy. Tap the button, desktop notifications tell you when Surfshark connects and disconnects, and the interface updates to show your new virtual location and IP address.
The location list doesn’t show latencies, but server loading icons highlight your best (and worst) options, and a Favorites system lets you manage frequently used servers.
A static IP list allows you to connect to locations in Germany, Japan, Singapore, the UK and the US and get a fixed IP from each one (ie your IP will be from your chosen country, but it will be the same every time you connect. ) This can be handy if you need to connect to an IP-restricted network while using a VPN, but keep in mind that every other Surfshark client can use the same IP, so you’ll need an extra layer of authentication.
Right-clicking the Surfshark system tray icon displays a miniature application window rather than the usual main text menu, allowing you to connect to the fastest server, select one of your most recent locations, or open the full application interface.
Surfshark even includes a MultiHop feature that sends your traffic through two VPN servers for added security.
The MultiHop section routes your traffic through two VPN servers, ensuring that even if the source server is compromised, an attacker will still not have your real IP. There are 14 routes available where the first server is your initial connection (options include US, Canada, UK, Singapore, Germany, France, India, Netherlands and Australia) and the second is where you will appear from the outside world (France, Germany, Hong Kong , India, Netherlands, Portugal, Singapore, Sweden, UK, USA.) The idea is that even if the origin server is compromised, the attacker will still only get an anonymous IP.
The Whitelister panel allows you to whitelist apps, websites and IP addresses that bypass VPNs (an advanced version of the split tunneling feature you’ll see with providers like ExpressVPN). If using Surfshark breaks a certain website or app, whitelisting it should fix the problem.
Alternatively, you can set Whitelister to route only your chosen apps through the VPN. This might be more useful if you only use Surfshark for one or two tasks, maybe torrenting; set your torrent client to connect via VPN and everything else will use your regular connection.
This worked as advertised for us, and it’s great to see a VPN provider provide this level of split tunneling support on the desktop. (Some VPNs have split tunneling systems on Windows — ExpressVPN, Hotspot Shield, NordVPN, Private Internet Access, ProtonVPN — but most reserve the feature for their mobile apps.)
Surfshark’s CleanWeb feature blocks ads, trackers, and malicious links. We’re not sure how effective this might be, as in our quick tests we found specialized tools like uBlock Origin blocked more ads and offered more control.
NoBorders mode aims to help you get online in countries where VPNs are often blocked. Surfshark doesn’t explain in detail what this does, but it’s probably trying to obfuscate your traffic in some way.
More conventional features include options to run a VPN alongside Windows or switch the protocol to WireGuard, OpenVPN UDP and TCP, IKEv2 or Shadowsocks (an alternative way to route traffic through an encrypted tunnel, often used to bypass internet censorship in China).
You can enable the Surfshark kill switch from the settings menu
A kill switch is available to block your internet connection if the VPN goes down. It also works, but not as well as we would like.
Our first problem is that it’s only available in its most extreme form, where the kill switch doesn’t allow you to access the internet at all unless you’re connected to Surfshark. It’s nice to have this more secure option, but we’d also like the ability to have the kill switch active only if the connection drops within a VPN session. If it does appear, you still have the option to close the app and use your regular internet connection instead.
In another complication, although the kill switch successfully blocked our internet traffic when we force closed the VPN, it didn’t show any notification to alert the user. If you’re surfing and the VPN crashes, all you’ll see is your internet connection failing for no apparent reason. This may only take a few seconds until the app connects automatically, but it’s still potentially annoying.
Even if you are not affected by the internet blocking for a few seconds, we think the app should inform you that the connection is down. What happens if a server crashes and does this every few minutes? User should know.
If you don’t have an active kill switch, the problem gets worse. If the VPN goes down, not only will your connection stay active, but you won’t see a warning. And since we found that the app sometimes fails to reconnect without warning the user, your identity and data may be exposed for a while.
The Surfshark client for Windows needs some work then, but overall it’s easy to use and has a lot of functionality to explore.
This is the user interface of Surfshark’s Android app.
Mobile VPN apps are often much more basic than their desktop cousins, but Surfshark’s Android offering is surprisingly similar. It has more or the same interface, same location list, multishop links, CleanWeb ad and malware blocking and split tunnel for apps and websites with Whitelister.
It has the same WireGuard, OpenVPN / IVEv2 and Shadowsocks protocol support and a kill switch to protect you if the VPN goes down.
The Android VPN app also includes additional features: a choice of encryption methods (AES-256-GGM or Chacha20Poly1305, maybe giving you better speeds), a “use small packets” option to improve performance with some mobile networks, and the ability to automatically connect to a VPN when accessing mobile, secured or unsecured networks.
And if any of this doesn’t work as it should, you can submit bug reports, raise or view tickets from the app (no need to open your browser and waste time hunting for the right area of the support site.)
Surfshark’s iOS app also shares a similar look and feel to its desktop counterpart.
It’s pretty much the same story with Surfshark’s iOS VPN app: the look and feel is very similar, and yet you get the kill switch, the choice of protocols (OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard) and more.
Small but welcome recent additions include the ability to set your preferred language from within the app and reset your VPN profile to help resolve connectivity issues.
That’s an impressive setup, especially for the iOS end of the range, which often gets shortchanged on features compared to other platforms.
Add it all up and these are impressive apps, well implemented, easy to use and a refreshing change for anyone tired of losing VPN functionality on mobile devices.
We used several different speed testing services to determine Surfshark’s performance.
We measured Surfshark’s performance from a US location and a UK data center with a 1Gbps connection, giving us plenty of opportunities to see exactly what the service can do.
We installed the latest Surfshark app on our test systems connected to our nearest location and checked download speeds using performance testing sites including SpeedTest (the website and command line app), TestMy.net and Netflix’ Fast .com. We collected at least five results from each site, repeated each test again using up to three protocols, and ran the full set of tests in both morning and evening sessions.
UK OpenVPN results were below average at 165-170Mbps. Most top VPNs hit somewhere in the 250-350Mbps zone during recent tests.
Surfshark has a secret weapon in its WireGuard support, and when switching protocols, downloads go up to 550-700Mbps.
US speeds are disappointing by comparison, with OpenVPN reaching 100-150Mbps, IKEv2 only 40-45Mbps, and even turning to WireGuard only got us 15-210Mbps. That lags well behind top US performers like TorGuard (410-480Mbps), StrongVPN (590-600Mbps) and ExpressVPN (490-630Mbps.)
Put it all together and it looks like Surfshark can provide very acceptable performance. The speeds you’ll see will depend a lot on your location and target servers, so it’s important to get the trial version and run your own performance tests.
Netflix and streaming
If you’re tired of VPNs that vaguely hint at their unblocking abilities but never make a real commitment, you’ll love Surfshark. Not only does the company say up front that it unblocks Netflix, but it also names nearly 20 countries where it currently works (US, France, Japan, Italy, Australia, etc.)
This wasn’t just exaggerated marketing-driven confidence. We were able to access US Netflix from each of our three test locations.
BBC iPlayer can sometimes be more of a challenge, but not this time. Surfshark bypassed its VPN block with ease, giving us access from our three test locations in the UK.
The good news also kept coming, as Surfshark got us into both US Amazon Prime and Disney+, giving it a perfect 100% in our unblock tests.
If Surfshark doesn’t work for you, the support site has setup and installation tutorials, troubleshooting guides, FAQs, and other resources to point you in the right direction.
There is a lot of useful content, but organization can be an issue and the site doesn’t always present the most relevant documents first. Click “Get Started” for example, and as we write, the first article at the top of the list is “How do I enable dark mode?”
The page goes on to list setup instructions for different platforms, but again, it’s not always easy to find what you want.
In comparison, click Windows Setup in ExpressVPN and you’ll see links to setting up the app, the OpenVPN GUI, or manually configuring the service on Windows 7 or 8, with a separate guide for Windows 10.
Click “How to set up Surfshark VPN on Windows” in Surfshark and you’ll only get an app installation guide. There are separate articles for OpenVPN and manual setup, but they are in a separate manual setup guide and you have to find them yourself. It’s not difficult, but it wouldn’t be necessary if Surfshark did a better job of organizing and presenting its documents.
Fortunately, if you have any problems, support is available 24/7 via live chat. We tried this while trying to diagnose a connection problem and got a friendly response in less than 60 seconds. So even if you’re just struggling to find something on the website, it might be worth opening a chat session – the problem can be resolved faster than you think.
Surfshark Review: Final Verdict
Surfshark is a powerful and (initially) cheap VPN with a set of advanced features. There are also some issues considering that the service should be on your list.
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