Surfshark is a well-known VPN provider that operates from a home base in the British Virgin Islands. This choice of jurisdiction means that Surfshark is under no obligation to retain data about its users – good news if you’re looking for a VPN capable of protecting your privacy. This VPN goes beyond protecting your surfing activities, uses multi-hop server technology, and camouflages itself to hide your ISP from detecting VPN usage. This is our Surfshark VPN review.
Additionally, Surfshark offers excellent value in its longer plans, making it the right choice for those who want to stay safe online for a relatively small outlay. So, read on for our full Surfshark VPN review, in which we will examine some of Surfshark’s features to help you decide if this VPN service provider is right for you.
Surfshark VPN review: Features
Of course, Surfshark provided a VPN’s primary function of hiding our IP address and web activity when connected, which we have proven with the DNS and WebRTC leak tests below. But aside from that, Surfshark had four key functions that made us dizzy:
- Stumbling: Despite the ever-growing list of available streaming services, sometimes we get in the mood to watch a movie that’s not available on Hulu, Disney Plus, or something like that. In those cases, we tend to run torrent files, which we could do with Surfshark. Now, we can’t argue for illegal torrenting, but for some legal torrenting fun, connect to Surfshark beforehand.
- Netflix: In the same vein, you’d think the American Netflix platform would have more than enough movies and TV shows to meet our needs; wrong. Sometimes we wanted to jump to Netflix internationally, whether it was dry British comedy on a British server or baffled about German programming. With Surfshark, we were able to switch to Netflix in different countries, which indeed came in handy when we had to finish The Good Place, which we didn’t dare to ruin for you.
- Kill Switch: One time, when we were connected to Surfshark, a woman ran into us and accidentally disconnected us from the VPN. Was our web traffic exposed? Fortunately not. Instead, Surfshark’s kill switch kicked in, automatically shutting down all of our web browsers. Talk about thinking fast!
- Split tunneling: In a feature, they call Whitelister, we simultaneously connected to public and private networks while connected to Surfshark, saving some much-needed bandwidth to view Youtube while on a server at work.
Surfshark VPN review: Privacy
Surfshark’s privacy features start with the primary VPN principles: secure protocols (OpenVPN UDP and TCP, WireGuard, IKEv2), AES-256 encryption, and a ‘kill’ switch to block Internet access and prevent identity leaks if the connection ever fails.
But that’s just the beginning. Surfshark has its private DNS on each server to reduce the chance of others spying on your activities. And the ability to use a dual VPN hop (e.g., connect to Paris and then leave 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 there’s no need to keep logs of user actions.
A FAQ page about logging states that Surfshark does not collect data: Inbound and outbound IP addresses; Browsing, downloading, or purchase history; VPN servers you use; Bandwidth used; Session information; Connection time stamps; Network traffic. The only information the company keeps about you is your email address and billing information, the FAQ explains, and some anonymous, aggregated statistics: Performance data, system usage frequency, connection failure, crash reports.
We would like to know more about these statistics, how they are collected, and what the company sees, but there is nothing to be surprised about. (If you are not satisfied, you can limit this data collection a bit, for example, by disabling crash reporting in your app Settings box).
The Surfshark website prides itself on having passed a security audit by the German security company Cure53. And that’s true, but this was limited to an examination of Surfshark’s browser extensions, so it can’t tell us anything about logging or other back-end processes. And as it happened in November 2018, we’re not sure if it tells us anything useful about the service as it is today.
Still, it’s good to see that Cure53 found only two relatively minor problems and concluded that it was ‘very pleased to see such a strong security stance on the Surfshark VPN extensions, especially given the common vulnerability similar products to privacy issues.’
Surfshark VPN review: Performance
Surfshark’s support for OpenVPN includes providing downloads of configuration files for each of its servers. This is good news if you plan to manually set up the service on other platforms that can use it, and it also allowed us to use our automated performance testing software to preview Surfshark’s locations. We had no connection errors, connection times were faster than average, and all servers returned IP addresses for their advertised locations.
We switched to a data center in the UK to see how fast Surfshark could go, but OpenVPN’s results were disappointing with an average of 70-90Mbps. We ran the same performance tests from an American location. Speeds were slightly higher (and more consistent) at 100-105Mbps, but that was half of the 200-220Mbps ExpressVPN achieved in its last review.
However, Surfshark was not yet ready. We run our speed tests by default with OpenVPN as this is the most supported protocol, but Surfshark now also supports the next generation WireGuard. Would that make a difference? Oh, yes. By switching to WireGuard, we’ve approximately doubled our UK speed to an average of 150Mbps, and we’ve reached over 200Mbps from some US locations. That’s not the fastest we’ve seen – NordVPN’s new NordLynx protocol routinely beats 300Mbps in our latest review – but it’s a reliable result that competes well with many big names.
To check for the worst possible speeds, we used the client to choose distant servers with the heaviest load. Surprisingly, the results were impressive, with an average of 30-35Mbps between the UK and Argentina, for example, even when the app identified Argentina as one of Surfshark’s most congested locations.
All in all, it seems that Surfshark can deliver very acceptable performance, almost always. However, the speeds you’ll see strongly depend on your location and your target servers, so it’s essential to take the test and perform performance tests yourself.
One of Surfshark’s main selling points is its extremely low monthly costs, with prices starting at just $1.99 per month for a 24-month contract. Understandably, some users are afraid of starting a two-year plan, but most competitors charge about the same for a single year. However, the two-year Surfshark package is the only one that offers real value for money – the one-month and one-year plans are not as competitively priced ($11.95 and $5.99 per month, respectively). For contracts of this length, there are plenty of competitors offering similar rates.
All Surfshark plans also come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so from a pricing perspective, there is little reason not to go Surfshark – especially if you are happy to commit to a two-year subscription.
When it comes to supporting, you can find the answers to most questions through Surfshark’s convenient support site. Installation guides are available for all supported platforms and a wide selection of how-to articles that address common issues. You can also start a live chat messaging session by clicking on the support icon at the bottom right of most pages of the Surfshark website. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and throughout the Surfshark review, customer service representatives have responded quickly to our questions.
While we could initially tell the advisors that they were using a support script, they provided informative, personal, and useful advice once they understood our questions.
Surfshark VPN review: Final words
For users on a budget, Surfshark is currently the most valuable VPN on the market – as long as you don’t mind sticking to a two-year plan. Throughout our time with Surfshark, we’ve been impressed with its reliability and extensive feature list, putting it on par with more expensive competitors, while its streaming capabilities and clean interface make it great for both casual users and experts alike.
However, in addition to the price, the unlimited number of devices connected to a single account sets Surfshark apart from the competition.
Budget VPNs don't have to be feature-free, and Surfshark is proof - it's absolutely packed with advanced functionality, yet you can sign up for half the price of some competitors.
- Speedy WireGuard connections available on all apps
- Unblocks Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Disney+
- Very cheap introductory deal
- Speedy and helpful live chat support
- Kill switch issues
- Below average OpenVPN speeds
- Support website needs work