Surfshark is relatively new to the VPN scene, but it’s wasted no time making a name for itself. In the few years since its founding, Surfshark has built a network of more than 3,200 servers in 65 countries. For this Surfshark VPN review, we examined the virtual private network from every angle, rating it on its features, ease of use, speed, security, privacy and more.
- Besides the standard VPN features, Surfshark offers a number of easy-to-use options for hiding your internet traffic.
- Surfshark’s payment plans are quite affordable if you choose to pay for longer in advance, and they don’t put limits on the number of devices, bandwidth or simultaneous connections.
- Using Surfshark won’t impact your browsing speeds too much, and it’s a good choice for streaming, especially if you’re trying to unblock Netflix.
The VPN service was founded fairly recently in the British Virgin Islands in 2018. The archipelago, which lacks any data retention laws, is a popular spot for VPNs to set up shop. ExpressVPN, one of the best VPNs, is also based there (check out our ExpressVPN review for more details).
Surfshark is a tightly secured, affordable VPN. We especially like that every subscription has unlimited simultaneous connections and that split tunneling is presented in a way that’s easy for any user to understand. Plus, the VPN works on Netflix and all major streaming services. Read this full Surfshark review for all the nitty gritty details.
Surfshark is a solid VPN provider with a fast-growing server network and no noteworthy flaws. If you’re trying to unblock Netflix, Surfshark is a good option, though you may need to try a couple different servers before you get it to work. However, once you’re in, speeds are good enough for streaming HD content.
Yes. If it’s your first VPN, you can hit “quick connect” and get straight to browsing. However, more seasoned users might be a little frustrated by the relatively small amount of control options.
Surfshark costs $11.95 per month. You can save money by buying a one-year plan for $71.88 or a two-year plan for $47.76. It also provides a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Surfshark is an excellent service in its own right, but it doesn’t compare to a seasoned veteran like NordVPN. NordVPN’s imposing server network and incredible speeds leave Surfshark in the dust in most use cases.
- : PayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, Amazon Pay
- : Unlimited
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, regional payment systems, WebMoney
- : 5
- : Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, UnionPay, Crypto Currencies, PayPal (via Paddle)
- : 6
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin
- : 7
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 8
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Accesses all major streaming services
- Unlimited devices on every plan
- Split tunneling
- Impressive number of servers in underrepresented locations
- No user forum
- No free plan
Surfshark’s feature set checks a lot of the boxes we’re looking for in a VPN. There’s a kill switch, which cuts off your internet if the VPN connection drops for any reason. You can also set the VPN to start when booting up, name trusted WiFi networks and maintain your private connection through user profiles.
Surfshark also allows split tunneling. In principle, split tunneling lets you choose certain websites or apps that can use the internet directly without going through the VPN service when the VPN is active.
The split tunneling feature is only available on Windows and Android, but other users can access it via browser extensions (read our StrongVPN review to learn about another service with split tunneling).
CleanWeb, MultiHop & NoBorders
Surfshark has a couple of features that keep it from being eclipsed by its more established competitors. First among these is its ad blocker, CleanWeb, which blocks malware, pop-up ads, trackers and suspected phishing websites. It’s a great side perk of the VPN, even if its catch rate isn’t 100 percent.
Surfshark really distinguishes itself with MultiHop, its double VPN feature. It lets you route your connection through more than one secure VPN server, putting extra protective layers between your IP address and prying eyes. So far there’s only 13 of these connections — mostly confined to well-served countries — but it’s still an intriguing feature we’d like to see expanded.
Finally, there’s NoBorders, a new feature that claims to allow you to get online in restrictive countries that usually block VPNs. We weren’t able to travel to a totalitarian country to see if the NoBorders mode works. However, we assume it makes it more difficult for third parties to tell if you’re routing traffic through a VPN, likely using the Shadowsocks VPN protocol.
Surfshark Premium Privacy Features
Surfshark recently added a couple of premium privacy features, which it sells in a bundle for $0.99 per month on top of your regular plan. One of those features is BlindSearch, Surfshark’s ad-free, zero-logging search engine based on the Bing API.
The other bundled feature is HackLock, a fledgling identity theft protection service that aims to someday compete with LifeLock.
We’re pretty impressed by Surfshark’s feature set. It combines a full suite of basic VPN functionality with some intriguing additions.
Although it’s hardly the only VPN that has an ad blocker (see our CyberGhost review) or that connects through multiple servers (see our NordVPN review), it does a great job of bundling all these features together in both an accessible and affordable way.
Surfshark Features Overview
|Payment methods||PayPal, Credit card, Google Pay, Amazon Pay|
|Supports split tunneling|
|Free trial available|
|Worldwide server amount||3200+ servers in 65 countries|
|Desktop OSes||Windows, MacOS, Linux, Xbox, Playstation|
|Mobile OSes||Android, iOS, FireTV, AppleTV|
|Browser extensions||Chrome, Firefox|
|Can be installed on routers|
|Can access Netflix US|
|Can access BBC iPlayer|
|Can access Hulu|
|Can access Amazon Prime Video|
|VPN protocols available||OpenVPN, IKEv2, Shadowsocks|
|Enabled at device startup|
|Passed DNS leak test|
|Malware/ad blocker included|
Surfshark has only one plan, and it offers unlimited simultaneous connections and places no limits on bandwidth. Plus, it includes all the standard Surfshark features, excluding those in the premium bundle.
The one plan varies in price depending on how long it lasts, with longer subscriptions saving money. There’s no free plan, so if you’re looking for a no-cost VPN, head over to our list of the best free VPN services instead.
Although its price is middling at the monthly level, Surfshark’s two-year plan is the lowest-priced on the market. If you’re looking to save more on a one-month subscription, check out our Ivacy review.
Surfshark Free Trial and 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
Surfshark offers a seven-day free trial of its VPN app on every mobile platform, which you can access by downloading the app. Plus, each subscription level comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. The bundle of Surfshark’s “security suite” features, HackLock and BlindSearch, adds $0.99 per month to whatever tier you’re on.
Surfshark also offers a good range of payment methods. You can use debit or credit cards, PayPal, Google Pay or Amazon Pay. If you’d rather use an untraceable cryptocurrency, Surfshark accepts bitcoin, ethereum and ripple.
Ease of Use
Surfshark’s main control panel launches with its list of server locations open. You can choose to hide this menu, but that button is rather small, and the list might be a bit disorienting for a first-time VPN user.
You can opt to ignore the menu and use the “quick connect” button, which automatically finds the fastest server. Note that this isn’t always the server that’s physically closest to you. For us, Surfshark found a faster VPN server slightly farther away. It’s nice to know the VPN is vetting its network, and it proves Surfshark’s big server list is more than a gimmick.
Using the VPN server list isn’t too complicated. There are three tabs that help you select different kinds of servers: “locations” for variable IPs, “static” for a server with a static IP address and MultiHop for extra-secure connections through multiple servers.
You can make any server a “favorite” to return to it easily. You can also use the lightning-fast search bar to look for a specific location. This feature was especially welcome after dragging ourselves all over a world map for our TunnelBear review.
All the other features are located in the “preferences” panel, grouped into six tabs. The “general” tab manages the kill switch and lets you control when the VPN will automatically turn on or off.
The “networks” tab allows you to name and toggle trusted WiFi networks. The “features” tab lets you turn the CleanWeb malware and ad blocker on and off. If you’ve paid extra for HackLock and BlindSearch, you’ll also control those features from here.
The “account” tab lets you manage basic aspects of your account without opening a browser window. The “updates” tab gives you several options for how to receive Surfshark updates, including whether you want only stable releases, when to check for updates and how often to download updates.
Finally, the “advanced” tab lets you choose whether to send crash reports and whether to use NoBorders, the feature that’s intended to help you circumvent firewalls that restrict browsing. There’s also an option to change your protocol — though, oddly, this is still there even if you’re on a platform that supports only one protocol.
Note that these screenshots are from the macOS version of Surfshark. The Windows app organizes options more visibly, in large panels on the left-hand side of the UI. This is where you’ll find the split tunneling function if you’ve got it.
Overall, Surfshark’s UI is friendly once you get used to it. More advanced VPN users might be disappointed by the amount of control, but what there is, is very well organized. In later versions, we’d like to see the tabs organized more clearly since it’s not always obvious which category a certain feature falls under, making some of them difficult to find.
We tested Surfshark using speedtest.net to see how it impacts browsing speed and network traffic, starting with a server as close to our location in North Macedonia as possible. The table summarizes the results of our speed tests.
|North Macedonia (closest server)|
We also tested three of Surfshark’s MultiHop servers. Those results are in the following table, with the unprotected connection added for comparison.
|Location:||Ping (ms)||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)|
|Canada to United States||196||29.6||5.76|
|Germany to Singapore||291||32.4||5.98|
|India to United Kingdom||317||32.6||5.82|
Our speed tests show that Surfshark maintained almost the same download and speeds as an unprotected connection, sometimes going slower than the control test and sometimes even exceeding it. The connection remains zippy even when connecting to remote locations like Australia and India.
However, download and upload speeds alone don’t paint a full picture of Surfshark’s performance. Ping suffered greatly when connecting to a location on a different continent. This means that websites will take a second to respond to input, and the lag will increase with distance to the server.
The MultiHop connections turned out very well during the speed test. Latency was longer, which is to be expected, but download speeds were unaffected — and even improved, in some cases. However, some MultiHop servers failed to connect entirely. Regardless, our test shows that adding extra security to your streaming won’t cost much speed.
If you’re connecting close to home, Surfshark’s latency is acceptably low for gaming. However, what earns it more points is that every connection we tested beat the 5 Mbps threshold recommended for streaming. In general, it’s better for video than for games. For a comparison, see our lists of the best VPNs for gaming and the best VPNs for streaming.
Surfshark supports four protocols: OpenVPN, IKEv2, WireGuard and Shadowsocks. See our VPN protocol breakdown for more about how protocols affect VPN security.
OpenVPN is a trustworthy open-source protocol that’s a popular choice for many VPNs. IKEv2 is the fastest protocol and is great at restoring dropped connections, making it an ideal choice for mobile devices.
Shadowsocks is a proxy designed specifically to get around restrictive firewalls, especially China’s. That’s really all it’s good for, so we don’t recommend using it otherwise. For encryption, Surfshark relies on AES-256 GCM, which is a pretty sure bet. Since we last reviewed Surfshark in November 2019, it’s added ChaCha, an alternate cipher that often performs better on mobile devices.
In 2020, Surfshark made the lightning-fast WireGuard protocol available for users on Android, Windows, iOS, macOS. Although it brings faster speeds, it does come with some privacy concerns.
WireGuard can’t assign a dynamic IP address, so it assigns you the same one each time you connect. This means that if you choose to use WireGuard, Surshark will need to temporarily store your original IP address in order to assign you the same new IP address when you connect.
After running Surfshark through tests to check for IP address, DNS and WebRTC leaks, we found no problems. That’s no surprise, though. Surfshark has made solid choices here, and it’s great that it’s added a new encryption option.
Surfshark is easily secure enough for torrenting, and it can even stand up to the Great Firewall of China with its use of Shadowsocks. See our best VPN for torrenting list to learn how it stacks up.
Recently, Surshark became one of only a handful of VPNs to switch to RAM-only servers. Since RAM can’t keep anything in its memory when it powers down, all of your browsing data gets completely wiped. Even configuration files are wiped from memory, as they’re no longer stored on a traditional hard drive system.
Who Owns Surfshark?
Surfshark Ltd., a company based in the British Virgin Islands, owns the Surfshark VPN. Outside its work on Surfshark and other privacy products, not much is known about the company, though there have not been any reports of it violating users’ trust.
The company’s big selling point on the privacy front is that it’s headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, a territory that currently has some of the world’s best online privacy laws. There’s always the danger that a law might pass later, but for now, it’s a great place for Surfshark to be sitting.
We checked to see if Surfshark has ever been caught harvesting user data and learned that the company had its browser extensions independently audited by the German firm Cure53. The audit found only two minor weaknesses, and it determined the extensions do not keep logs. Surfshark wasn’t audited outside of the browser extensions, but it still makes us cautiously optimistic.
We like that Surfshark doesn’t have a parent company that might ask it to compromise its ideals. The only real count against it is that it saves independent identities in order to advertise itself. Otherwise, this is a VPN that will guarantee you privacy.
Right now, Surfshark is fully capable of unblocking any streaming service, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer. However, you might have to switch between a few servers in your country before one gets through. Our first two tries on Netflix with a United States server were blocked, but we managed to unblock Netflix on the third try.
Once you’re in, performance matches the results of Surfshark’s relatively strong speed tests, and it is one of our fastest VPN services. If it’s not fast enough for you, though, take a look at our best VPN for Netflix list.
The number of servers Surfshark can access has fluctuated here and there, but at the time of writing, it has over 3,200 servers in 65 countries. That’s impressive for a VPN with roughly two years under its belt — especially as it just about doubled the server count in the past year — but we’re more interested in geographic diversity than quantity.
Fortunately, Surfshark looks promising in this regard as well. Although more than half of its servers (37 countries out of 63) are located in Europe, it also serves 13 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, five in South America, one in Central America, three in North America, two in Africa and two in the Middle East.
It’s worth noting that Surfshark added several servers in underserved locations (including Nigeria, Kazakhstan and Indonesia) since we last reviewed it in November 2019. The speed of new additions makes us hopeful there will be more IP addresses added soon.
For now, we rate Surfshark’s server location options as promising but not quite there yet. If you want the widest possible geographic range of servers, HideMyAss is the industry leader. You can jump over to our HideMyAss review to find out why that’s both a good and a bad thing.
We were sorry to see that there’s no way to get directly to Surfshark’s help page from within the desktop VPN. That’s a small thing, but it goes a long way toward making the process friendlier.
Getting help with Surfshark starts with its knowledgebase. The last time we did our Surfshark VPN review, it was still very new, and we dinged it for having only nine articles in its entire self-support section. It’s clearly taken the criticism well, as the knowledgebase has grown far more extensive in just a few months.
Immediately after clicking “help,” you’ll find eight buttons that lead straight to basic setup guides. The FAQ follows, then buttons for three categories of articles: tutorials, general and billing. Each section includes a good range of articles. Unfortunately, there still isn’t a forum.
Live Chat Support
Surfshark’s 24-hour live chat assistance is managed by Zendesk. We asked a question and got a courteous and helpful reply almost instantaneously. Being first in the queue during U.S. West Coast business hours was a great feeling, and even though Surfshark is obtaining it through a third party, we won’t complain.
Next, we tested the ticket submission system with a different question. We received an automated confirmation email within a minute. The actual answer took about 10 hours and was full of detailed and actionable advice. All in all, the customer support with Surfshark is a great experience, though the lack of a forum still stings.
Surfshark is taking all the steps it needs to gain attention in a crowded VPN field; it’s growing fast, competing with available services on features and price, and introducing advanced features few other VPNs offer. Plus, its affordable two-year pricing is hard to beat.
Other VPNs have multi-server connections, split tunneling and ad blockers, but Surfshark rolls them all together in an intriguing and compact package. It’s also private, secure and strikingly affordable, especially with its unlimited device guarantee for all subscriptions. Where Surfshark has fallen short, it’s shown the capacity to improve quickly.
What did you think of our Surfshark VPN review? Have you tried Surfshark? Are you using a VPN right now? Would you recommend Surfshark to your friends? Let us know what you think in the comments. Thanks for reading.