Surfshark is a relative newcomer to the VPN sector but it has already made big inroads into what is already a crowded market. But while there are some areas where Surfshark is up there with the very best, there are also a few places where it still has room for improvement.
- Unlimited concurrent connections.
- Strong encryption.
- Great range of features.
- Decent download speeds.
- Works with US and UK Netflix.
- Logging policy not ideal.
- Uses virtual servers.
Surfshark exploded onto the VPN scene in a big way a couple of years ago. It is one of the few newcomers to really challenge the established names in the market from the very start and its innovative offers have made it a real contender for a lot of people.
But with those new waves now subsiding, how does Surfshark service match up now?
Our brand-new review puts Surfshark through its paces and reveals where it lives up to the hype and where it still has room for improvement.
Speed is one of the most important aspects of any VPN service and in testing we found Surfshark to perform well.
All local servers offered excellent speeds and allowed us to carry out daily tasks and more intensive ones like video streaming without issue.
Servers located further afield were understandably slower but not by much and would still be able to perform most everyday online tasks. Speeds were a little inconsistent over time which could prove to be an annoyance.
We tested Surfshark on a regular UK household internet connection to try and gain an indication of the sort of average speeds you could expect. To do this, we accessed various websites and downloaded a test file using a regular UK household internet connection.
Our regular connection speed at the time of these tests was 58.25 Mbps. The average speeds we experienced with Surfshark were as follows:
- UK – 56.0 Mbps
- France – 57.88 Mbps
- Netherlands – 58.21 Mbps
- Switzerland – 56.09 Mbps
- Sweden – 55.80 Mbps
- New York, US – 55.32 Mbps
- Australia – 52.44 Mbps
Overall the speeds are impressive and comparable to some of the top providers.
You should be aware this is merely a glimpse of speeds at a set time under specific conditions.
Speeds achieved by yourself will depend on many factors and could be lower or higher than our results.
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Surfshark's website claims they have a strict no logs policy and goes on to state that “We don't monitor or log anything you do when you connect.”
This is technically true but it is not quite the full story. A quick glance at their Q&A document on logging reveals that Surfshark does keep logs of all users email address and billing details, such as credit card information.
This practice is far from unique and there is nothing to stop you using an anonymous email address and paying with cryptocurrency for complete privacy if you so wish.
A little more worrying is that Surfshark also records some anonymous, aggregated stats. This includes things like performance information, frequency of use of the system, unsuccessful connections, and crash reports although Surfshark is quite vague about this.
The problem with anonymising data like this is that it is often possible to unanonymise it again. The lack of information about how the data is collected, what it is collected for, and who can see what is far from ideal.
Until Surfshark provides more details about this logging policy, it will always be a bit of a red flag.
But it must be said that they don't log incoming and outgoing IP addresses, online activity, downloading or purchasing histories, servers used, bandwidth used, session information, connection timestamps, or network traffic, which puts them ahead of quite a few of their competitors.
The service also hasn't had their no-log claims tested with an audit. Although you'll see claims of audits this is currently limited to their browser-extensions only.
The trend in the VPN market has been moving towards offering more and more simultaneous connections. Surfshark has taken things as far as they can go.
Once you sign up for a Surfshark account, you can download and connect an unlimited number of different devices to their network simultaneously. This means you can secure all of your devices and those of your family.
No other VPN is going to beat Surfshark on this deal but a few have decided to join them since Surfshark took this unprecedented step. It seems likely that most other VPNs will end up following suit sooner or later, but that is not the case yet making this a big USP for Surfshark.
Surfshark is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands; the same place as ExpressVPN. This offshore location is one of the most privacy-friendly on earth which means there is no local law that requires Surfshark to collect any data about their users.
This suggests that the data they do collect is being gathered for commercial reasons rather than legal ones, although the lack of information makes this hard to verify.
One thing we do know for sure is that Surfshark is not based in any of the 5 Eyes or 9 Eyes or 14 Eyes countries and so there is no danger of any user data being shared with other countries.
Customer support is a big strong point for Surfshark.
Crucially, they offer the 24/7 live chat support service that most VPN users prefer. This service is quick and responsive and is staffed by people who are helpful and appear to be first-language English speakers.
If there was one small criticism of this service, it was the tendency to stick to pre-prepared answers.
This is probably what they have been told to do, but it does mean that they are sometimes not as flexible to unique issues as they might be.
The support page on the Surfshark website is also comprehensive and features setup and installation tutorials, troubleshooting guides, FAQs and much more. We did find their search feature was not as useful as it might have been, but really this is a minor fault.
You can also send in an email support request if you prefer.
All in all, the customer support provisions are as comprehensive as anything we have found elsewhere and surpasses an awful lot of their rivals.
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Surfshark has been expanding its servers rapidly ever since it arrived on the scene. A year ago, when we last reviewed Surfshark, it offered 1,000+ servers in 50 different countries.
Today this number has jumped to an impressive 1,700+ servers in 63 different countries. This includes numerous locations in Europe, Asia-Pacific, and the Americas as well as a pretty impressive spread across the Middle East and Africa as well.
Given that Surfshark is still a relative newcomer to the VPN market, this is a very impressive total.
We have also confirmed that these servers are all either owned or rented and operated by Surfshark themselves.
Not many new VPNs offer such a diverse range of locations nor the server numbers that Surfshark are providing.
Does Surfshark use Virtual Servers?
Yes. Surfshark does use virtual servers and is quite open about the fact.
On their website, they argue that this isn't a problem because they do still own the physical servers and most users won't notice the difference.
The only two drawbacks they mention are that Surfshark might not connect you to the nearest server because it sees a virtual server as its physical location and also online database updates might be slow meaning sometimes websites appear in the wrong language when a new virtual server is added.
However, if you have read our extended guide to Virtual Locations, you will know that virtual servers can also create other problems. They can affect connection speeds on the physical server they are connected to and in some circumstances, they can also pose a security or privacy risk too.
The Surfshark website only lists three countries as offering virtual servers; Argentina, Chile, and Costa Rica.
But their website suggests that their German servers could be located in France, which implies that they are actually used far more widely. Some locations, such as Libya appear likely to be virtual locations, but Surfshark insists this is not the case.
Virtual locations are not a massive problem and the chances are they will not affect you if you are using common server locations like the USA or the UK. But they are still not ideal and we would prefer to see Surfshark stick to physical servers from now on.
Does Surfshark work in China?
A year ago, when we tested Surfshark, it was still unable to work behind the Great Firewall in Communist China. Fast-forward one year, and things are different.
Surfshark has now introduced a new feature called No Borders.
Once you enable No Borders, which is done through the advanced settings page, you can access a special list of servers that will allow you to use Surfshark in all sorts of different restrictive regions including, supposedly, Communist China.
Surfshark has also added the Shadowsocks proxy to its service in recent months too. Shadowsocks is an encrypted proxy that is largely used by people inside Communist China to get over the Great Firewall.
Shadowsocks only unblocks browser traffic and doesn't encrypt, but for many people stuck inside Communist China, this is a lifeline as it allows them to access vast numbers of websites and reams of information that the regime routinely blocks.
We have retested Surfshark inside China but sadly in our experience it wasn't working. The initial impressive results seem more that the Chinese regime wasn't aware of the newcomer but as it's popularity has grown it has become more blocked.
Does Surfshark offer Dedicated IP Addresses?
Surfshark doesn't offer the possibility to request a dedicated IP address as such. But it does have a static IP Address option on some of its apps.
If this feature is enabled, it means when you reconnect to the same location, Surfshark will endeavour to reconnect you to the same IP Address if at all possible.
If you don't enable this feature or the app you are using doesn't offer it, IP Addresses are offered on a round-robin basis which means you are unlikely to get the same IP Address twice running.
Does Surfshark have Double-Hop servers?
Double-hop servers are VPN connections that reroute your traffic through two different servers for additional security and privacy protection.
Double hop connections are usually slower than a regular VPN connection, but if privacy and security are important to you, they are well worth a try.
Surfshark offers a range of double-hop connections which they call ‘MultiHop'.
These can be accessed from the locations sections of their app, where you will see a tab for Multihop at the top of the page.
Options include various neighbouring countries but also countries in different continents. Surfshark has one of the biggest selections of double-hop connections of any VPN and in our tests, we were pretty impressed with the performance.
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Security & Safety
Protocols & Encryption
Surfshark gives its users a choice between OpenVPN UDP and TCP, or IKEv2 protocols. Somewhat unusually, it uses IKEv2 as its default protocol on both the Mac and iOS apps.
This is a little strange as it is generally accepted that OpenVPN is the protocol that offers the best combination of speed and security on most platforms, with the exception of iOS devices.
Users do have the option of switching to OpenVPN if they so wish, but Surfshark will know that most users don't mess with the protocol settings which makes this an odd default to go with.
Windows and Android users get the choice of UDP or TCP OpenVPN, IKEv2 and Shadowsocks also.
Nevertheless, IKEv2 and OpenVPN are the best protocols around at the moment. Some users will miss the lack of other protocol options, but this will be a small minority.
For users in countries that block access to lots of content like Communist China, Russia, and Iran, the Shadowsocks protocol is also available to help them get around the online restrictions of their regimes and access the internet freely and openly.
Surfshark also uses 256-bit AES encryption as standard across all apps and platforms with a SHA512 authentication hash and 2048-bit RSA key for handshaking.
This is the minimum encryption levels we would expect but is more than sufficient. It also provides optional ChaCha encryption for Android users.
DNS Leak Testing
DNS leaks are a danger with all VPNs because they can potentially allow your ISP to see the websites you are visiting and this can, therefore, compromise your online privacy.
Some VPNs take this issue more seriously than others and fortunately Surfshark is one of these.
Each server has a private DNS and leak protection when using IPv4 which adds another level of security to their service.
The results are evident in our tests. We didn't find any DNS leaks at all. We also tested Surfshark for IP and WebRTC leaks and discovered no problems with these either.
Are there any Surfshark security incidents?
Not that we are aware of and we keep a pretty close eye out for this type of thing.
Surfshark is still a young company, but so far there have been no security scandals that have made it into the public domain. We have also not seen any user complaints about privacy and security breaches yet either.
To date, Surfshark has a clean bill of health on this front.
Is Surfshark safe for Torrenting?
Not only does Surfshark allow torrenting, but it also claims to be the best VPN around to use for it too.
A VPN is essential when downloading BitTorrent files because it stops your ISP from throttling your service and keeps your connection private and secure.
Torrenting is permitted across its entire server network and Surfshark is also compatible with all the major P2P clients.
It also claims to offer lightning-fast torrenting speeds, a quick and reactive kill switch, and a whitelister to make sure all torrenting apps work.
This means you can use Surfshark to torrent anything you want and as often as you want, which is ideal.
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All of the Surfshark apps are consciously minimalist in design. This is usually something to be praised but we did feel that Surfshark's mobile apps were perhaps a little bit too bare.
Their mobile app is available for iOS and Android devices. We tested both the iOS and Android app. They were simple enough to download from the Apple app store and Google Play respectively.
There is a single-click quick-connect button screen which connects you to the fastest available server for your location. The ‘Fastest Server' button opens up a list of servers which you can choose from.
The settings and features icons in the corner directs you to optional features like the kill switch and CleanWeb. You can choose from all three VPN protocols on offer and the Android app allows you to switch between encryption types too.
Generally speaking, both the Surfshark mobile apps are clean and reasonably straightforward to use and do the basics well.
Surfshark offers desktop apps for Windows, Mac, and Linux devices. We tested the Mac and Windows app, again they were simple enough to download and install.
The desktop app both worked in much the same way as the mobile app.
There is a simple home screen with a quick connect button and options to access the server list, which also included the multi-hop servers. The settings button allows you to toggle the optional features on or off.
A nice little feature was discovered when you right-clicked the Surfshark system icon. This displays a miniature app window that allows you to connect to the fastest server, choose a recent location, or open the full app interface.
As with the mobile app, there was nothing ostensibly wrong with this app, but the minimalist style won't be to everyone's taste and you may even miss a map style view that others offer.
Surfshark offers apps for Linux users and a dedicated Amazon app which lets you use it with the Firestick and Fire TV devices. This is good news for streamers, cord-cutters and Kodi users especially.
There are also apps for Apple TV and other Smart TVs available too as well as a Smart DNS feature for Xbox and Playstation users.
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Does Surfshark support browser extensions?
Yes. Surfshark currently offers browser extensions for both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.
These can be downloaded from these browsers respective web stores and will protect your browser activity and history but none of the other activity on your device.
Usefully, you can download and install both browser extensions with just two clicks.
Does Surfshark support VPN Routers?
Yes. If you want to install Surfshark onto a VPN-enabled router, you can do so but you will have to follow one of their manual setup guides.
The good news is that these are extremely well written and simple to follow.
Most routers that can support OpenVPN are covered, but there are a few models that might require you to set up custom DD-WRT firmware. There is a guide for this too.
The best bet is to search for your router in the Surfshark help section before you sign up to make sure it will work with your hardware.
Do Surfshark VPN apps have any other features?
Surfshark is still a young VPN, but there are already plenty of built-in features for users to benefit from.
They have a kill switch and a built-in DNS and leak protection system as standard
The unique No Borders feature is an excellent little tool which actively looks to see if your network has any restrictions, such as state censorship.
If it finds any, it automatically changes the location you are connected to in order to ensure you can access everything. This could be great for users in counties like Communist China, Russia, and Iran.
The No Borders feature requires different set-ups for different apps, but all the details are readily available in their help section.
There is a built-in camouflage mode which helps to mask the fact that you are using a VPN from websites and even ISPs. There is also a Whitelister tool which allows you to specify certain apps and sites you want to bypass their VPN service.
In common with many new VPNs, Surfshark also bundles in a tool to help you block ads, malware, and trackers. Theirs is called CleanWeb and from our testing, it seemed to do a pretty decent job.
The only other feature that Surfshark makes a bit of a fuss over is their independent security audit.
This was carried out by Cure 53 and came back with some glowing reports. But it is worth stressing that this audit only covered Surfshark's browser extension, not their actual apps.
How do the apps compare?
Surfshark's apps are clean, user-friendly, and effective. We are generally very impressed with all of them and particularly with the speed in which they have expanded their app offering and tightened up how they work.
If there is a downside, it is that they are still very minimalist in design and features.
This will suit some users down to the ground, but not others. It is a matter of personal taste in the end, but we weren't totally sold on it.
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Surfshark has focused a lot on enabling its VPN to unblock as many streaming services as possible. This is not as easy as it may sound because many streaming services go out of their way to prevent VPNs from being able to unblock them.
Unlike some VPNs, Surfshark has not optimised certain servers for streaming but attempted to make their entire network streaming-friendly. They have enjoyed mixed success so far, but you have to remember that this is still a young VPN and to have got as far as they have is no mean feat.
Does Surfshark work with Netflix?
Yes. Surfshark can unblock Netflix service and unlike some VPNs that are very vague about which Netflix services it can unblock and when, Surfshark is clear about what it can and can't do.
It can unblock Netflix from the UK, India, Italy, Norway, Germany, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Poland, France, Canada, Turkey, Sweden, Singapore, and the Netherlands by connecting to any server in those respective countries.
It can also unblock US Netflix too and even better, it can do this with any server other than those located in the one of the countries mentioned above.
That is a total of 16 different Netflix services that Surfshark can unblock. We have tested several of these and have no reason to doubt these claims. Speeds and reliability were also good in our testing as well.
Does Surfshark work with BBC iPlayer?
Yes. You can stream content on the BBC iPlayer when connected to any of Surfshark's UK-based servers. Again, speeds and reliability are good.
If you do encounter any problems, which we did on one occasion, there are tips on their website and their customer support team were able to tackle the problem in just a few minutes.
Does Surfshark work with Disney+?
Yes. You can watch the US version of Disney+ when you connect to any Surfshark server apart from those in India and the Netherlands.
Both of these countries have local Disney+ servers, but you can access these on the respective country servers if you so wish.
Does Surfshark work with Amazon Prime?
Again, the answer is yes but it is slightly more restrictive this time.
The only version of Amazon Prime that Surfshark can currently unblock is the US version and you will need to connect to one of their US servers to do this.
If you want to connect to another country's Prime service, unfortunately, Surfshark can't help you at the moment.
Can Surfshark VPN unblock other streaming services?
Yes. Surfshark is able to unblock things like Hulu, ITV Player, Sky Go, and much much more.
In our tests, there weren't too many streaming services it didn't work with. But, if you have a specific one you want to use it for, it is worth checking with their helpful customer support team first.
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Prices and Plans
Surfshark offers monthly, annual, and bi-annual packages with big discounts for those willing to sign up for longer. Their prices are:
- Monthly – £9.49 a month ($11.95 /mo)
- 1 Year – £4.79 a month – billed as £57.48 every 12 months. ($5.99 /mo)
- 2 Year – £1.59 a month – billed as £38.16 every 24 months. ($1.99 /mo)
These prices have not changed in the past year, but they were extremely competitive then and they remain extremely competitive now.
As things stand, because the total price for a two-year deal is almost £20 cheaper than a one-year deal, the two-year contract is a no-brainer. But be aware being locked into a service for so long does come with pitfalls.
Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee as standard, so everyone has plenty of time to try their service before committing to spending any money.
They accept all the major credit cards, several crypto-currencies, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Amazon Pay.
Surfshark also offers plenty of local payment options which change depending where you're located. This is really useful if you're in regions like South America or others where traditional ‘western' payment systems are less common.
How does the price compare?
Extremely well. Surfshark is cheaper than almost all other premium VPNs. While their service is not quite at the heights of the market leaders yet, it is not far off and they are closing the gap all the time.
Surfshark is definitely one of the most cost effective VPNs on the market right now and with their service improving all the time, they are becoming better and better value for money.
Surfshark is just $1.99 per month at the cheapest point, compared to other services:
- ExpressVPN – $6.67
- CyberGhost VPN – $2.75
- NordVPN – $3.49
- PrivateInternetAccess $3.33
- VPNCity – $2.99
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Surfshark has improved many aspects of its service over the past twelve months and there is no denying that it is now a serious contender to the market leaders.
It lets itself down a little with its privacy and logging policies and we would like to see it making improves in this area sooner rather than later.
Its use of virtual servers is not ideal, the server network could be bigger, and its apps are not to everyone's taste.
But just about everything else in Surfshark's service is first class and given what a relative newcomer they are, we are seriously impressed.
We look forward to revisiting Surfshark in 2021 and seeing if they have managed to improve in some of these areas.
But already, they are a seriously good VPN and for the low prices they charge, Surfshark is a high-quality and high-value VPN.
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What do users' think?
Surfshark has a TrustScore of 4.4 / 5 on review website TrustPilot.
Chris Ramsay said “Great service, customer support very quick to respond, never had an issue in the 6 months I have been using it.”
Jimmy C said “Not the best Linux app, PIA and ExpressVPN wins here imo.”
Stefan Nightcore said “I using Vpn for about 2 months and its really good no lags or issues.. I purchased 24 month subscription which is really cheap 😀”