Surfshark review

A fast VPN held back by some issues

Our Verdict

Surfshark may be a relatively new VPN but it offers solid performance as well as some advanced features. However, the service is not without its issues.

Pros

  • Fast live chat support
  • Cheap two-year plan
  • Some advanced features

Cons

  • No free trial
  • Support website needs some work
  • App interface is limited in some areas

Surfshark is a relatively new VPN that is quite smaller than its larger competitors. How small? Well for example, Surfshark’s Android app currently has over 100,000 installs on the Google Play Store. For comparison, ExpressVPN has more than 10 million.

There is more to a VPN than its size though and it’s clear that Surfshark offers its customers a substantial set of features. You get access to over 800 servers in 69 locations across 50 countries as well as to apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and extensions for Chrome and Firefox. There are also no limits on the number of simultaneous connections you can have making Surfshark ideal for families or users with multiple devices.

The service also offers URL and ad blocking, P2P support on most servers, VPN chaining (using two servers for one hope, split tunneling, the company’s own zero-knowledge DNS servers and 24/7 support is also available in case anything goes wrong.

So let's take a closer look at the plans, pricing and features offered by Surfshark to see how this small VPN stacks up against the competition.

(Image credit: Surfshark)

Plans and pricing

Surfshark’s monthly plan is more expensive than those offered by other VPN companies at $12.95. If you decide to pay for a year up-front, you can effectively cut your monthly cost down to just $5.99. However, the two-year plan looks like the best bargain at $1.99 per month and this is one of the lowest prices we’ve seen for a full-featured VPN.

Another highlight of this VPN is Surfshark’s recently expanded payment methods which now include support for credit cards, PayPal, cryptocurrencies, Amazon Pay, Google Pay and even Ali Pay.

You will need access to one of these payment methods up-front though as Surfshark doesn’t offer a free trial. However, you can still get seven days for free if you sign up for the service via its apps. A 30-day money-back guarantee does offer some protection for those who are not satisfied with the service.

(Image credit: Surfshark)

Privacy and logging

Surfshark’s privacy features begin with secure protocols (OpenVPN UDP and TCP, IKEv2) AES-256 encryption and a kill switch to block internet access and prevent identity leaks if your connection should fail.

However, that’s just the start as Surfshark also has its own private DNS on each server to help reduce the risk of third parties spying on your activities. You can also use a double VPN hop (connect to a server in Paris and then leave the Surfshark network in New York) also makes it even more difficult for anyone to follow your activities online.

Just like ExpressVPN which is based in the British Virgin Islands, so to is Surfhsark and the company points out that this means it is not required to keep detailed logs of user activity on its service.

A FAQ page explains this further, stating that Surfshark does not collect: “Incoming and outgoing IP addresses; Browsing, downloading or purchasing history; VPN servers you use; Used bandwidth; Session information; Connection timestamps; Network traffic.”

Only your email address and billing information are kept by the company according to its FAQ and in our opinion, this is certainly reasonable.

Surfshark has also undergone a security audit by the German security company Cure53. This was limited to an examination of the company’s browser extensions so it doesn’t tell us anything about logging or other back end processes. Cure53 found only two relatively small issues and the firm said that it was ‘highly satisfied to see such a strong security posture on the Surfshark VPN extensions, especially given the common vulnerability of similar products to privacy issues.’

(Image credit: Surfshark)

Client setup

It was quite easy to get started using Surfshark. We downloaded and installed the Windows client, chose the signup option and were even able to pick out a plan and pay for it right from within the installer without having to use a browser.

The Windows client is quite versatile as it adapts as you resize its windows. The client looks similar to those from other VPNs and features a Connect button, status information and a list of locations. However, if you expand or maximize the client window, its locations are displayed in multiple columns which allows you to fit many more onto your screen at once.

Connecting was also easy. Tap the button and the interface updates to show your new virtual location and IP address. Desktop notifications are also available to tell you when the service connects and disconnects.

You can choose your preferred server from a basic location list which shows every available country. A Search box is also on hand to speed up finding a country but there is no Favorites system to manage commonly-used servers. There is however a Recently Used list and if you only use the same three or four servers, they’ll be quick and easy to find here.

While Surfshark’s user interface may be simple, its Settings panel isn’t and here you’ll find a number of valuable tweaks and extras.

(Image credit: Surfshark)

A smart Wi-Fi Protection panel allows you to choose what the client does when you access a network. It can automatically connect every time or only when the network is unknown depending on your choice. A kill switch setting disables internet access when the VPN connection drops as well.

You can also whitelist which applications and websites can bypass the VPN and this could come in handy if you need fine control over what traffic passes through the VPN tunnel.

We also installed the Android app and we found it to have a similar stripped-back interface with little more than a Connect button and a Surfshark logo. The app has recently been updated to include an integrated kill switch and the ability to customize auto-connection rules by network, URL filtering and its whitelist feature.

(Image credit: Surfshark)

Performance

The fact that Surfshark supports OpenVPN and even provides downloads of configuration files for reach of its servers allowed us to use your automated performance testing software to check out 40 of the service’s locations.

Connection times were a little longer than usual at two to eight seconds (though you likely wouldn’t notice this unless you’re measuring them). There were also no connection failures and latency was within the expected range.

All of the servers returned IP addresses for their advertised locations but running ping tests suggested that a few may be physically located elsewhere. For instance, both the Mumbai and Vietnam servers appeared to be in or near Germany. If you are closer to Germany than Vietnam this probably won’t matter as you’ll get better speeds while still having a Vietnamese IP. However, if you’re closer to Vietnam, this may affect performance.

Download speeds for the closest and most popular locations were reasonable. UK performance was decent at around 55-60Mbps on our 75Mbps test connection but nearby European locations were barely any different at 40-50Mbps and US connections gave us 48-54Mbps. Australia and New Zealand on the other side of the world still managed a very acceptable 30-40 Mbps.

(Image credit: Surfshark)

Support

If you’re experiencing difficulties getting Surfshark up and running, the support site has setup and installation tutorials, troubleshooting guides, FAQs and other resources to help you out.

While there is a little useful content there, it is mostly related to set up. When we searched for more details on Surfshark’s features, we found that most were described in the same one or two lines used on the main website.

(Image credit: Surfshark)

Fortunately, if you can’t solve the issues yourself, support is available 24/7 via live chat. We tried out the service by asking a simple question and an agent was able to explain everything we needed to know in about two minutes. Complex connection problems will likely take longer to fix but from our experience, you won’t have to wait long for Surfshark to help point you in the right direction.

Final verdict

Surfshark is a fast and powerful VPN with a wide array of advanced features. There are still some issues but the service has seen major improvements recently. If you’re in the market for a fast VPN with advanced features, Surfshark should definitely be on your list.

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The Verdict

4

out of 5

Surfshark

Surfshark may be a relatively new VPN but it offers solid performance as well as some advanced features. However, the service is not without its issues.