Surfshark is an interesting provider in that it shows a lot of promise with some exotic features, yet doesn't deliver on some core abilities. That said, there is a lot to like about this Netflix-unlocking, split-tunneling and malware-blocking VPN, as you can read in our Surfshark review.
Surfshark is a virtual private network service based in the British Virgin Islands. As the new kid on the block — it’s only been around six months — Surfshark has pledged to stand up to the best VPN providers, and it does a good job.
In this Surfshark review, we’ll share our results after spending hands-on time with the software. We’re going to discuss features, pricing, ease of use, supported devices, server locations, speed, security and support before giving our verdict.
The provider’s strengths are its number of supported devices and excellent customer service. Other aspects, such as the number of features, speed and server locations, make Surfshark look less like a competitor for the big players and more like an ordinary VPN.
- Easy to use
- Split tunneling
- Accesses all streaming platforms
- No ad or malware blocker
- Large server network
- Inexpensive multi-year plans
- Included malware blocker
- Specialty servers
- Inconsistent speed across network
- Broken server recommendation
- No split tunneling
- Gets into Netflix
- Updated interface
- Automatic killswitch
- Lackluster split tunneling
- No killswitch controls
- Spotty ad blocker performance
- Runs on many devices
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Unlimited devices
- Gets into Netflix
- Easy to use
- Live chat
- 24/7 support
- Small server network
- No advanced security options
- Small knowledgebase
If we had to describe Surfshark’s features in one word, it would be “decent.” With a built-in killswitch and split tunneling — a useful yet rare feature, read our StrongVPN review for one service that has it — it meets the usual requirements of a VPN and leaves no wishes unfulfilled.
That said, it’s almost too standard. We expect a unique selling point, especially when Surfshark wants to challenge the “big players” in the business. ExpressVPN (read our ExpressVPN review), for example, comes with an integrated speed test that allows you to quickly find the fastest server for your location, as well as split tunneling.
Yet, there are a few highlights we’d like to mention. The “multihop” feature is a great enhancement for a VPN, because it lets you access your target server via another server in order to double up your security; NordVPN is one of the very few other services that offer it.
The “clean web” function, which is a fancy way to say ad-blocker, also seems to be quite useful. The bottom line is that it provides more security and data protection since malware or spyware is often injected through ads, especially if you have a browser hijacker. It also helps with speed since unnecessary loading times for commercials are avoided; check out our CyberGhost review for another service that blocks malware.
There isn’t much to add on the security side of things. You can’t change any protocols other than the transport protocols (UDP or TCP). You can read more about that in the “ease of use” section below.
Surfshark Features Overview
Surfshark has a three-plan lineup that only changes in duration. The provider does not limit users’ bandwidth or the number of devices per account. There is a monthly, annual and biannual subscription. The longest version, as with most VPN providers, is the cheapest.
All plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
|1 Month |
1-year plan $ 5.99 / month
$71.88 billed every year
2-year plan $ 1.75 / month
$41.88 billed every 2 years
Save 50 %
We initially thought Surfshark didn’t offer a free trial, but upon further inspection, we found that it does. You can try it free of charge for seven days, but only on your mobile device. To enable the free trial on your PC or Mac, download the iOS or Android app from the app store and create an account there. You can use that account afterward to log in to Surfshark on any device you prefer.
Surfshark is hard to beat in price. Only PIA (read our Private Internet Access review) is cheaper. Other inexpensive VPNs, such as VyprVPN (read our VyprVPN review), don’t come close. The two-year plan sticks out most because it offers an unmatched value in the VPN space.
Surfshark supports bitcoin and all other common cryptocurrencies and works with many other payment services, such as PayPal, Stripe, Alipay, Tenpay and UnionPay.
The only Surfshark omission is a free plan, but, given the quality of most free plans, that doesn’t disappoint us much. Windscribe is the only exception to the “bad free plan” rule (read our Windscribe review).
To install Surfshark on your device, you first have to go to its website and select the appropriate operating system. The website will detect the OS you’re using and redirect you to the applicable download page.
Surfshark offers detailed setup guides for every OS in case you get lost along the way. No matter if you’re using the Chrome extension or iPhone app, Surfshark has you covered. We installed the VPN on Windows for this review.
Once you have downloaded it, run the installation file.
After the installation, you will have to log in with a Surfshark account. You can either create it on the website or with the mobile application. We recommend the latter, though, so you can also use the seven-day free trial on your desktop.
When you have logged in, you will see the following main menu.
Under “quick connect,” you can connect directly to a VPN server optimized for your location. If you want to decide where the VPN will connect, select “all locations.”
There, you will find two areas: “recently used” and “all locations.” Under the latter, you will find, as the name suggests, all of the server locations in Surfshark’s network. The “recently used” section is useful because it allows you to choose between the servers you last used. It is also available for quick access in the main menu.
In order to connect to the desired server, simply click the country. When you are connected, you will see the “S” symbol in the middle of the application pulsing green.
At this point, we want to highlight the “multihop” feature of Surfshark again. It enables you to connect to your actual destination via a second server, but we would like a wider range of combinations. As it stands now, the selection is fairly barren.
You can configure settings, such as multihop, in the settings menu. To access it, click on the small gear in the upper right corner.
In the settings, you can find information about your account and make general changes to the VPN. In the submenus — “connectivity,” “notifications,” “security” and “advanced” — you can access advanced areas of Surfshark. At the bottom, you will find the “support” area, which contains the help menu.
Under “connectivity,” you will find settings related to establishing a connection. There, for example, you can define automatic connections when booting the OS. If you click “WiFi,” you will be sent to the WLAN management area.
As the name suggests, you’ll find the security settings in the “security” menu. This is where you can enable the killswitch, split tunneling and the clean web function (ad-blocker). Unfortunately, we couldn’t find protocol settings, which we expected to be there.
Under the “advanced” tab, you won’t find many settings, which is confusing. You can only choose to send crash reports to Surfshark and which transport protocols you want to use.
Overall, Surfshark is an easy-to-use VPN, but its functionality is limited.
Surfshark’s plans are simple. Each supports any device, period. There are no limitations per account. Even when it comes to routers, the provider leaves no wishes unfulfilled. Just make sure your router supports OpenVPN or is flashable with custom firmware (Tomato, DD-WRT, etc.) and you’ll be set (check out our guide on how to install DD-WRT on your router).
Surfshark provides instructions on how to set the VPN up on your router. That makes the configuration quite simple. Even Kodi (read our comprehensive Kodi guide) is supported.
The only drawback is how Surfshark supports Tor. Tor via VPN works fine, but the other way around doesn’t. That said, it is important to note that only a few VPN providers, such as BolehVPN (read our BolehVPN Review) and AirVPN (read our AirVPN Review), offer such a feature.
Surfshark has over 500 servers in 50 countries. That’s impressive considering it’s only about six months old. Outside of Europe and the U.S., though, there aren’t many servers to choose from.
With 32 countries, Europe is by far the best represented, followed by North America, where the provider offers nine locations. It is not uncommon for a VPN provider to be best represented on those two continents, and Surfshark is no exception.
Asia is just behind North America. South America and Africa are meager compared to the other continents. While South America still lets you choose between four countries, there is only one country available in Africa.
Surfshark has taken up the cause of challenging the veteran providers. Compared to NordVPN’s (read our NordVPN review) gigantic network of over 5,000 servers, Surfshark’s server coverage is low. That said, since it is a newcomer to the scene, we’re impressed with the server count.
Here are the results:
|Country:||Ping (ms)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)|
|United States (NYC)||202||3.60||1.48|
We tested each server a couple of times and averaged the values. In order to not rely too much on one provider, we have used speedof.me in addition to speedtest.net.
As you can see in the table above, Surfshark isn’t among the fastest VPNs. All in all, it’s sluggish and causes big speed losses. It’s still better than cryptostorm, though (read our cryptostorm review).
The ping isn’t good, either. The latency stays within limits as long as you stick to your continent, but skyrockets when moving outside of it. If you want a gaming VPN, you better take a look at our best VPN for gaming list instead.
Download and upload speeds aren’t good, but they’re still reasonable. Streaming and other data-heavy operations are possible with the VPN tunnel, but Surfshark is not the best VPN for streaming, as it failed to meet Netflix’s 5 megabits per second minimum for streaming high-definition video in four of our tests.
Surfshark uses 256-bit AES to encrypt transmitted data. As it’s one of the strongest options in encryption, we have nothing to complain about on that front. That said, we would have liked an alternative encryption cipher, such as ChaCha, for devices that have problems with AES.
It supports two protocols: OpenVPN and IKEv2. Other protocols, such as L2TP/IPSec and PPTP, are not covered at all. The VPN does not let you choose which security protocol you want to use, either. You can only choose between the transport protocols — UDP or TCP — which make no real difference to security.
We subjected Surfshark to several leak tests and got good results. IP leak, DNS leak and WebRTC tests were passed by the service without problems.
Because it is based in the British Virgin Islands, which has some of the strictest privacy laws in the world, it does not have to record logs of its customers. Many of the big players in the U.S. claim to have no-logging policies, but they are often overturned by scandal. One example of that is IPVanish (read our IPVanish review).
Surfshark offers live chat and email support. The response times, as well as the quality of the answers, are excellent. While the email support took a little less than an hour, the live chat was available after only 10 seconds.
In self-support, things aren’t as good. The existing documentation leaves a lot to be desired. The knowledgebase is divided into five areas, all of which hold only a few articles. A forum would help solve some niche issues, which Surfshark, unfortunately, doesn’t offer.
The FAQ section is well-arranged, but that is because there are only nine articles. The other sections are not described in detail. We had to get most of the information about the provider from live chat or email.
Surfshark’s customer service is good, even if the knowledgebase is lacking. The response times are unbeatable and the support staff was able to cope well with difficult technical questions.
Surfshark is a remarkable VPN that is still in its early stages. It suffers from minor teething troubles. The software is convincing in many respects and has the potential to become a big player itself, especially due to its supported devices, competitive pricing methods and strong customer service.
The speeds are slow, the features are lacking and the security options are subpar. Surfshark goes some of the distance against the top providers in the space, but fails to make it over the finish line. If you want to have your cake and eat it, too, we recommend reading our other VPN reviews — and maybe our best pop-up blockers while you’re at it.
What do you think of Surfshark? Let us know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading.