Key Takeaways: Surfshark VPN Review
- Aside from being budget-friendly, Surfshark offers excellent speed, unblocking ability, top-notch security, unlimited simultaneous connections and many advanced tools.
- Surfshark offers a seven-day free trial on Android, iOS and Mac and a 30-day money-back guarantee on all its plans.
- Although Surfshark doesn’t keep any logs when you use the VPN app, it collects sensitive information when you visit its website.
Riding the wave of innovation, Surfshark continues to give the best VPN providers, including ExpressVPN and NordVPN, a run for their money. As you’ll learn in this Surfshark review, innovations such as rotating IPs, alternative ID and Nexus are helping this provider move up the ranks.
In this review, we’ll look into Surfshark’s recent updates, particularly the facelift on Windows and iOS and the new VPN features. We’ll tell you how the changes have impacted its performances on various fronts, such as streaming, speed, security and privacy. Let’s dive in.
03/17/2022 Facts checked
Updated to include information about Surfshark merging with NordVPN.
06/24/2022 Facts checked
We updated the review with new information about Surfshark’s jurisdiction and its merger with NordVPN.
09/20/2022 Facts checked
Updated the review to include Surfshark’s latest feature, the security dashboard. Also added information about Surfshark’s new manual configuration of the WireGuard protocol.
02/24/2023 Facts checked
Updated to include information about Surfshark’s recent audit by Deloitte.
06/23/2023 Facts checked
Added new information about custom MultiHop connections and dedicated IPs.
09/25/2023 Facts checked
Article rewritten with new information about Surfshark’s Alternative ID feature and the recent desktop app’s facelift.
Surfshark VPN Review: Overview
Surfshark has carved a name as a reliable, beginner-friendly VPN. Before we dissect Surfshark, let’s look at its history and main pros and cons.
What Is Surfshark VPN?
Surfshark is a Netherlands-based virtual private network (VPN) launched in 2018. It was founded in the British Virgin Islands but has since moved to Dutch soil. Over the years, Surfshark has morphed into a feature-rich, all-purpose VPN for streaming, bypassing censorship, secure browsing and more.
Surfshark VPN Review: Pros & Cons
- Solid security
- Great unblocking ability
- Excellent speeds
- Site may collect your real IP
- High latency on close servers
- No Mac/iOS split tunneling
Average speedDownload Speed94 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency2 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : Unlimited
Average speedDownload Speed92 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency5 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, PaymentWall
Average speedDownload Speed94 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency6 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, Cash
- : 6
Average speedDownload Speed80 MbpsUpload Speed9 MbpsLatency39 ms
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin, Amazon Pay
- : 7
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 8
Surfshark has commonplace VPN features and a cluster of advanced features to boot.
Soft and Strict Kill Switch
Like most VPNs, Surfshark has a kill switch, which is turned off by default. The provider recently introduced the soft and strict kill switches.
During our testing, the soft kill switch remained active as long as the VPN was connected, disabling internet access when the VPN connection dropped inadvertently. The strict kill switch disabled internet access when the VPN was off, preventing us from accessing the internet unprotected. The kill switch feature doesn’t work on websites or apps you’ve added to the bypasser or split tunneling list.
The Invisible LAN feature makes your devices invisible to other devices on your local area network (LAN). For example, if you’re using a public network, other computers on that network can’t see or connect to your device. This shields you from potential intrusion by hackers and people of malicious intent who could be lurking on that LAN.
You’ll find Surfshark’s split tunneling under the name “bypasser,” which lets you choose which apps, websites or IP addresses stay unprotected and which route through the VPN tunnel.
Bypasser is available on Windows and Android devices. Mac and iPhone users aren’t out of luck, though. The bypasser is available on the router app, meaning you can use this option to route apps on iOS and Mac devices.
Unlimited Simultaneous Connections and Data
One of Surfshark’s biggest selling points is that it allows you to connect an unlimited number of devices simultaneously — a feature that Windscribe offers on its free plan as well (learn more in our Surfshark vs Windscribe review). You can protect all home devices or share accounts with friends, family or roommates. Thankfully, Surfshark’s speed doesn’t dip even when everyone is connected, thanks to unlimited data and bandwidth.
CleanWeb, Ad & Malware Blocker
CleanWeb is an ad and malware blocker that stops ads from loading on all apps on your device, including your web browser. However, use it with caution when gaming because it’s known to turn off certain features in heavily ad-reliant games. This tool also blocks malware-infected websites.
Camouflage mode is the name for Surfshark’s obfuscation feature, which is active only when using the OpenVPN protocol. With obfuscation, Surfshark blends your VPN traffic with regular internet traffic to hide VPN use. Doing so lets you bypass censorship in China, Russia, India and other countries where VPNs are banned or limited.
Smart DNS allows you to unblock streaming content on devices that don’t support native VPN apps, such as old smart TVs. It offers U.S.-based IP addresses and can only access streaming services in the U.S. Keep in mind that the smart DNS changes your location without encrypting your traffic and is not a VPN replacement.
Note: As far as Surfshark features go, we’ve barely scratched the surface. We’ll discuss other unique tools like NoBorders Mode, IP rotation, dedicated and static IP addresses, and multi-hop servers in their respective sections.
Surfshark’s Paid Add-Ons
Surfshark One is a bundled security product that offers a VPN, antivirus, Search and Alert in a single suite. While you can buy the Surfshark VPN separately, the other tools aren’t available as standalone solutions:
- Surfshark VPN — Brings all the VPN features Surfshark offers.
- Surfshark Antivirus — Antivirus meant to protect your devices from malicious apps, documents and files.
- Surfshark Search — A private search engine built to serve up purely organic search results without the trackers, ads and logs of the traditional browser.
- Surfshark Alert — Uses breach detection techniques to alert you when your personal information leaks.
Surfshark Alternative ID
The Alternative ID feature, which is part of Surfshark One, was launched in July 2023 and is still in beta. Alternative ID generates a unique identity with a name, age, gender, address and email address that you can use to sign up for online services and apps.
Let’s say you want to sign up to 9Now outside Australia. You will require an Australian address, which you might not have. With Alternative ID, you can generate a unique name and an Australian address to open a 9Now account and stream content. Learn more in our guide on how to use Surfshark Alternative ID.
Surfshark Features Overview
|Payment methods||PayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, Amazon Pay|
|Supports split tunneling|
|Free trial available|
|Worldwide server amount||3,200 in 95 countries|
|Desktop OSes||Windows, MacOS, Linux|
|Mobile OSes||Android, iOS|
|Browser extensions||Chrome, Firefox, Edge|
|Can be installed on routers|
|Can access Netflix US|
|Can access BBC iPlayer|
|Can access Hulu|
|Can access Amazon Prime Video|
|Encryption types||256-AES, ChaCha20|
|VPN protocols available||OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard|
|Enabled at device startup|
|Passed DNS leak test|
|Malware/ad blocker included|
Surfshark recently changed its pricing model to add Surfshark One as part of its core product offerings. The provider now offers three pricing tiers: Surfshark Starter, Surfshark One and Surfshark One Plus. These tiers offer monthly, one-year or two-year plans as follows:
- Unlimited GB bandwidth, Unlimited devices, Secure VPN, Ad blocker, Cookie pop-up blocker.
- Unlimited GB
- Everything in Starter, plus Antivirus protection, Identity protection, Email Breach and Credit Card Alerts, Online Alias
- Unlimited GB
- Everything in One, plus Data removal
- Unlimited GB
If all you need are the usual VPN features, the Surfshark Starter plan will suffice. On a monthly scale, the Starter plan is still on the higher side of the spectrum. Thankfully, extended plans offer a discount, which makes Surfshark one of the best cheap VPNs. Surfshark One is for you if you need extra functionalities beyond the VPN features.
Dedicated IP Addresses Pricing
A dedicated IP is an add-on feature that costs $3.75 per month. However, the dedicated IP billing cycle is set based on your current plan. For example, if you’re on a one-year plan, the dedicated IP will be billed yearly.
Surfshark Free Trial & 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
Surfshark offers a seven-day free trial on Android, iOS and Mac devices (sorry, Windows users). Additionally, each plan comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, meaning you get a full refund if you cancel your subscription within 30 days.
One caveat is that there’s no easy way to request a refund on Surfshark’s website. You have to contact support to initiate the refund process. Worry not, though, because we have a full guide on how to get a Surfshark refund.
We ranked Surfshark as one of the best VPNs for beginners, thanks to its overall ease of use. Whether you’re a rookie or a seasoned user, you won’t struggle to create an account, install the VPN solution or wade through the settings.
You can download the native Surfshark app on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS and routers. For the purposes of testing Surfshark, we downloaded the Windows and Android apps.
Surfshark VPN Desktop App
Surfshark’s desktop app is one of the most polished we’ve seen in the market, alongside ExpressVPN’s app (see our Surfshark vs ExpressVPN comparison). The Windows UI underwent a makeover that improved its already sleek and clutter-free design.
The right side of the home screen has the connection button and details such as connection time, protocol, IP address, and download and upload data usage when connected.
The left side provides options to pick from Surfshark’s regular, static, multi-hop and dedicated IP servers. The “recently used” VPN server section saves time, especially if you always connect to specific Surfshark servers. Surfshark recently started displaying each server’s ping rate, allowing you to pick a server with a low load for optimal performance.
The “settings” tab has four VPN configuration options, including VPN and app settings. The “VPN settings” menu has options to play around with Surfshark’s features. Everything is within reach since the settings are in one scrolling list. The “app settings” menu has options for the app’s appearance (light or dark mode) and language.
Each Surfshark feature has an explanation about how it works, so you don’t have to tweak the options blindly. Moreover, when you select key features, such as the IP rotator and kill switch, you get a pop-up with further explanations.
Surfshark VPN Mobile App
The Surfshark mobile app mirrors the desktop design with a few minor tweaks. For example, the home screen has a single tab (instead of two) to fit the mobile screen with a “quick connect” button, a “recently used” section and a menu bar at the bottom.
The menu has options to pick your server, Surfshark One features and settings. Like the desktop app, settings are divided into “VPN settings” and “app settings.”
The mobile app has features the desktop app doesn’t. For example, if you’re on Android, you can use the Android native kill switch alongside the VPN kill switch. Moreover, you get a GPS-spoofing tool that overrides the mobile GPS location and changes it to your VPN location. You can also toggle the “use small packets” button to improve performance over mobile networks.
Surfshark Browser Extensions
Surfshark has browser extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge. For this review, we installed the Surfshark Chrome extension.
Remember that Surfshark’s browser extension is an HTTPS proxy (or SSL proxy) that works similarly to a VPN, but is no replacement for the desktop app. Learn more in our complete VPN vs proxy guide.
Besides that technical difference, the browser extension UI design is nearly identical to the desktop app. However, there are a few notable differences. For example, you can’t use dedicated IP or multi-hop servers on the browser extension. Moreover, there’s no kill switch, and the bypasser supports URL-based split tunneling only.
The Surfshark browser extension does offer features you don’t get with desktop or mobile apps. For example, the WebRTC blocker prevents websites using WebRTC from seeing your real IP or location.
You also get a cookie pop-up blocker that automatically thwarts annoying cookie permission pop-ups. Keep in mind that the Sufshark cookie blocker denies everything it can by default. You have to manually adjust the browser settings to allow or reject cookies based on your preferences.
Surfshark is a speedster, and its most recent performance edges it closer to the apex of our fastest VPN providers list. Before we get into the details, here’s a brief description of how we run our speed tests.
Here at Cloudwards, we run automated speed tests of the top VPN providers using a virtual remote desktop that connects to different VPN servers worldwide. We’ve capped our unprotected internet connection speeds at 100 Mbps for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads to mimic the average connection speeds in the U.S. Learn more in our VPN speed comparison guide.
Surfshark VPN Download Speed
When evaluating a VPN download speed, we examine its near-distance and long-distance performances. The graph above represents Surfshark’s speed over the last 30 days. Surfshark is very fast, hitting a top speed ranging from 93 to 97.04 Mbps.
When connecting to long-distance servers, there is increased inconsistency, with speeds ranging from 87.09 to 97.35 Mbps. All in all, Surfshark delivers fast download speed on near and long-distance connections.
Surfshark VPN Upload Speed
Surfshark’s near-distance connections sometimes fall below 8.5 Mbps but hover above 8.8 Mbps most days.
When we switch to long-distance connections, the inconsistency becomes more prevalent, and speed takes a dip. In this scenario, Surfshark’s speed ranges from 8 to 8.8 Mbps. However, this is still usually enough to enjoy smooth uploads.
Surfshark VPN Latency
Sadly, Surfshark’s latency is the highest on near-distance connections amongst all providers on our automatic speed testing roster. Surfshark’s latency is over 100 ms, whereas the rest of the pack maintains ping rates below 10 ms. This makes Surfshark a poor choice for gaming, which is a shame given its fast download and upload speeds.
On long-distance servers, the latency is also relatively high. It typically stays above 100 ms, sometimes peaking at over 200 ms. Other providers deliver a similarly high latency above 100 ms, except Windscribe, which keeps it below 50 ms.
The most secure VPN offers solid VPN protocols and encryption. Surfshark ticks both boxes, and it’s no surprise it claimed a spot on our most secure VPN list.
Surfshark VPN protocols
By default, Surfshark chooses the fastest and most stable protocol based on your network connection. You can manually select either OpenVPN (TCP and UDP), WireGuard or IKEv2, depending on what’s available for your operating system.
OpenVPN is the gold standard of VPN protocols and performs well on the speed and security fronts. It also supports obfuscation (camouflage mode) and is available on Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux and routers.
WireGuard is a modern protocol with a lighter codebase than OpenVPN. It’s not as tried-and-tested as OpenVPN, but so far, it has proven to be very secure. It’s also faster than OpenVPN, making it an excellent option for bandwidth-intensive activities. Keep in mind that WireGuard doesn’t support obfuscation.
Besides the pre-configured WireGuard protocols, the provider allows you to configure manual Wireguard connections. You can now manually configure WireGuard on Windows, Mac, Android, iOS and routers without a dedicated Surfshark VPN app.
Lastly, IKEv2 is also secure. It works seamlessly with mobile networks, but is more likely to be blocked by firewalls. Learn more in our full VPN protocol guide. Surfshark offers IKEv2 on Mac, Android and iOS devices.
Surfshark supports AES 256-bit and ChaCha20 encryption standards. AES 256-bit works with the OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocols, whereas ChaCha20 is the standard encryption for the WireGuard protocol.
While the AES 256-bit cipher is virtually unbreakable, it’s a symmetric encryption, meaning the encryption and decryption key are the same, as you can read in our VPN encryption guide. If a hacker gets the key, they can monitor the whole communication.
Surfshark uses perfect forward secrecy (PFS) to cut out that risk. With PFS, Surfshark creates a new and unique encryption key for each session. This way, even if a hacker gets one key, they can’t decrypt the whole communication.
Information Surfshark Collects
In addition, Surfshark collects your IP address when you use the smart DNS tool. This shouldn’t worry you as it’s a standard practice with private DNS services since they require you to input the assigned IP address to work. The good thing is that Surfshark retains this data for as long as the smart DNS is active.
Surfshark’s No-Logs Policy Audit
Surfshark’s IT systems underwent a series of third-party audits by Deloitte. The provider passed the tests, proving it doesn’t collect or store your data as per its no-logs policy. The RAM-based server infrastructure is one of the reasons Surfshark’s no-logs policy got the seal of approval.
Like other top VPN companies, Surfshark moved away from the traditional hard-disk servers and upgraded to RAM-only servers. This means that when a server loses power or is rebooted, user data or browsing history stored in it is irreversibly deleted.
Surfshark Ownership and Jurisdiction
Surfshark and NordVPN merged in February 2022 and are now owned by Nord Security — a Lithuania-based company. However, the two VPN providers operate independently, meaning Surfshark is still based in the Netherlands. We even have an article comparing Surfshark vs NordVPN as well as an article about the Surfshark-NordVPN merger.
The Netherlands is a privacy-friendly country in the European Union (EU) and isn’t part of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance. Besides complying with Dutch laws, Surfshark has to adhere to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
GDPR compliance is particularly important as it means Surfshark would need explicit consent to process your data. You can also request from the provider a full copy of the data it has collected about you (such as when using its website) and ask it to delete that data at any time.
The best VPN for streaming unblocks streaming services and offers excellent speeds to stream videos without interruption. Surfshark ticks these boxes.
When we tested Surfshark, it unblocked all major streaming services, including Hulu, Max, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, ESPN, Netflix and Disney Plus, on the first attempt. Even better, we could stream in full HD without lags or buffering.
The only issue is that videos sometimes took a while to load because of Surfshark’s high latency. However, when we got over this hurdle, the streaming experience was interruption-free, thanks to Surfshark’s high download speeds.
Can Surfshark VPN Unblock Netflix?
Yes, Surfshark finds a way around Netflix geoblocks with ease. Whether you’re accessing a local Netflix library or abroad, Surfshark will get you in on the first attempt. This, coupled with its excellent speeds, makes it one of the best VPNs for Netflix.
Surfshark has more than 3,200 servers in 143 locations covering 100 countries and territories. The provider has done a nice job covering often neglected countries in regions like Africa, Asia and South America. The table below shows Surfshark’s full server spread.
|🌎 North America||8||34|
|🌎 South America||10||10|
|🌍 Middle East||3||3|
However, not all Surfshark servers are physical, as it has virtual servers in 28 countries. Virtual servers have pros and cons, which we covered in detail in our virtual server vs physical server guide. Surfshark labels virtual servers, making them easy to spot.
Surfshark also offers multi-hop servers that route traffic via two servers for extra protection. There are 12 ready-made multi-hop servers with predefined exit and entry nodes. If none of the options meet your preferences, you can create custom multi-hop connections using the entry or exit nodes you choose.
Static IP and Dedicated IP Address Servers
Surfshark has 36 static IP address servers in six countries. There are 12 static servers in Japan, seven in Germany, six in Singapore, five in the U.K., five in the U.S. and one in the Netherlands.
Moreover, the provider has dedicated IP servers in 14 locations in 11 countries and territories (read more in our guide on how to use Surfshark dedicated IP):
- 🇺🇸 — Los Angeles, New York, San Jose, Dallas
- 🇨🇦 — Toronto
- 🇬🇧 — London
- 🇩🇪 — Frankfurt
- 🇳🇱 — Amsterdam
- 🇯🇵 — Tokyo
- 🇿🇦 — Johannesburg
- 🇦🇺 — Sydney
- 🇮🇹 — Milan
- 🇫🇷 — Paris
- 🇭🇰 — Hong Kong
Static and dedicated IP servers assign you the same IP address. However, a dedicated IP is exclusively yours, meaning you don’t share it with other VPN users. This helps sidestep the “bad neighbor effect,” where an IP is banned for the misdeed of other users. Learn more in our best VPN with dedicated IPs guide.
Surfshark Unique Server Technology
Surfshark introduced the Nexus and IP rotation features with a goal to improve how users utilize its server infrastructure. Ordinarily, when you connect to a VPN server, you stay connected to that server unless you end the connection and reconnect. If the server becomes overcrowded, such as during peak hours, speed can dip significantly.
Surfshark Nexus is designed to alleviate this problem. If one server becomes overcrowded, Nexus offloads some users to a server with a lower load, effectively shunning issues stemming from server congestion, such as unstable and slow connections.
The IP rotator is part of Surfshark Nexus. When you connect to a server on other VPN services, you get an IP address, which doesn’t change unless you manually disconnect and reconnect. The IP rotator automatically changes your IP address every 5-10 minutes without changing your server location or disconnecting from the VPN.
Available on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android apps, the NoBorders mode constantly scans your network for any restrictions. If it detects a school’s or internet service provider’s (ISP) firewall, it serves up a list of servers that can get you around the restriction. By default, the NoBorders mode connects you to the server geographically closest to you.
If you run into hurdles when using Surfshark, you’ll get many helpful guides in its knowledgebase. The knowledgebase has three sections: “getting started,” “fix an issue” and “Surfschool.”
The “getting started” section is a hub for all guides related to installing Surfshark apps, whereas the “fix an issue” section provides guides that go into the technical side of things to help you fix common VPN issues. If you want to learn how different Surfshark features work, go to the “Surfschool” section.
If you have an issue requiring human intervention, contact Surfshark support via email or live chat. Sadly, there’s no phone, social media or user forum support.
Experience with Surfshark Live Chat
When you ask a question, the Surfshark bot responds with articles related to the topic. We had to request the bot to connect us with a live agent by typing “human agent.” Thankfully, the support agent joined our chat almost immediately.
We didn’t have to repeat our initial question, which is great. The human agent took over from where the bot left off and always gave satisfactory answers regardless of the question, simple or technical. Plus, the agent was friendly and well-meaning.
The Verdict: Surfshark VPN Review
Surfshark is a good VPN service that continues to push the boundaries in the VPN arena. New technologies, such as IP rotation and custom multi-hop connections, give it an edge over competitors. This, coupled with its affordability, strong security, unlimited device connections and fast speeds, cement its position as one of the best VPN providers.
Have you used Surfshark VPN? In your opinion, what makes Surfshark a great VPN provider? Do you agree with our scores in these categories? We’d like to hear about it in the comments. As always, thanks for reading.
FAQ: Surfshark VPN Review
Yes, Surfshark is a trustworthy VPN with stellar security, excellent speeds, unlimited simultaneous connections and tons of advanced features.
Overall, Surfshark isn’t better than NordVPN. However, there are some categories where it topples NordVPN, such as unlimited connections, custom multi-hop VPN connections and cheap pricing.
Yes, Surfshark is legal in the USA.