Surfshark is a beginner-friendly VPN best suited to those seeking the highest levels of privacy. Performance is reliable enough on both local and international connections, but high latency and strict torrenting restrictions will most likely prompt keen gamers and P2P users to seek alternatives. Streaming fans will be pleased to hear that access to Netflix and BBC iPlayer is quick and hassle-free, and there’s a native app for Amazon Fire TV too. Modern custom apps are also available for Microsoft Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android, with manual workarounds for Linux and a long list of routers.
Surfshark boasts strong encryption (AES-256) and the essential advanced privacy features, including a VPN kill switch and MultiHop capabilities. It only logs anonymous connection metadata in order to maintain a high level of server performance, and is based in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction that doesn’t require it to collect or store any user information. Customer support is a lot better than we expected, with genuinely 24/7 live chat and a whole host of troubleshooting and setup guides. There’s no limit on simultaneous connections, so you can use it on as many devices as you like at once.
Pricing & Deals
Surfshark is the same as most providers in that there are three different pricing plans to choose from, so you shouldn’t struggle to find one that suits your budget. Each of these plans offers the same features but the longer you sign up for, the lower the monthly cost.
Paying month-by-month is the most expensive option at $11.95, which is about standard for most providers. You can save yourself 50% on the 12-month plan, coming in at $5.99 per month, but the biggest reduction can be found on the 2-year subscription, costing a very affordable $1.99 each month and saving you 83%.
Get 83% off Surfshark's 2-year plan
Surfshark Pricing & Deals
Surfshark currently offers a free trial for Android, MacOS, and iOS users, allowing them unrestricted use of the VPN service for seven days. We’re unsure why they haven’t extended this to users of other platforms, as right now those looking to use the VPN on Microsoft Windows and Linux are unable to take advantage of any sort of trial. After speaking to customer support, we’ve been informed that this is something they’re hoping to introduce in the near future.
All Surfshark users benefit from a generous 30-day money-back guarantee (as long as you haven’t breached the Terms of Service). This is genuinely ‘no questions asked’, with no hidden data caps or restrictions, making it a relatively risk-free experience. All you have to do to request a refund is send the support team an email or contact them via live chat, which is available 24/7.
Surfshark offers the usual range of payment options including most credit and debit cards, PayPal and AliPay. Privacy-conscious users will be pleased to hear you're also able to pay with Bitcoin, and hopefully Surfshark will introduce additional cryptocurrencies in the future.
Speed & Reliability
Surfshark’s performance in our speed tests was decent enough but nothing to write home about. Connecting locally, speeds are more than ample for streaming on a few devices at the same time or downloading multiple large files, and while they do drop slightly internationally we still found them to be pretty reliable. Latency is a little on the high side, even on same-country connections, and uploads are only permitted on one server.
Downloads peaked at 55Mbps in London (we test in the UK) and averaged around 50Mbps across the rest of Europe, which is fast enough to do pretty much anything you want online without breaking a sweat. We were impressed with speeds connecting out to the US, coming in at around 35Mbps, as this is quicker than we’ve seen from most other providers at this price point. Surfshark even performed well over longer distances, such as out to Japan and Australia, both of which reached a consistent 20Mbps – while this may not be enough to stream in Ultra HD across multiple devices, it’ll certainly do the job for most everyday users.
The lowest latency we found was just under 9ms when connecting to a server in the same country as us. Although this is unlikely to make much of a difference if you’re just browsing or even streaming, keen gamers might want to look elsewhere, especially considering some of our top picks boast ping times of as low as 1-2ms, or even less.
We were really pleased with the level of reliability Surfshark offers – our test results barely fluctuated at all and we didn’t experience any connection drops whatsoever. It doesn’t connect extremely quickly, taking around 10 seconds, but that’s pretty standard from what we’ve seen so far.
Torrenters will probably want to consider other options, as although upload speeds are fairly good (peaking at 69Mbps on local connections), P2P activity is currently only permitted on the Netherlands server. This means that even if you’re in Australia and you want to torrent, your traffic will automatically be rerouted to the Netherlands, leading to massively reduced performance and increased latency. It might do the job for those in Europe, but P2P users outside of this continent should steer clear.
Overall Surfshark offers consistent, reliable performance that will be more than quick enough for the majority of potential users. Solid local downloads and uploads mean you’ll have no issues streaming in HD on more than one device at the same time, however above average latency and harsh P2P restrictions will most likely prompt keen gamers and torrenters to look elsewhere.
To read about our speed testing methodologies, please read How We Review VPNs.
Surfshark offers a decent number of server locations with a total of 50 countries to choose from. While this isn’t quite as much choice as some of our other providers, such as HideMyAss! with over 190 countries, it is more than likely to be ample for the majority of everyday users as most popular locations are covered. Check out the server list on Surfshark’s website to make sure your needs are covered before signing up.
Considering Surfshark hasn’t been around for very long, it’s hardly surprising that they don’t offer a very high number of individual servers and IP addresses. Currently they maintain just over 500, with each server location holding a ‘few’ different IP addresses that are randomly assigned. We can only presume that as this provider continues to grow, they’ll introduce more servers, as currently this limited number means that you could experience reduced performance at busier times, such as in the evenings.
Coverage is best in Europe and North America, however there’s also a decent amount of choice in the Asia-Pacific region with servers in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea, as well as a few others. You can drill down to city-level servers in Canada, Italy, Poland, the UK and the US. We were pretty impressed with a choice of seven different cities in the US, as this means that users can connect to their closest server for the best possible performance. Everywhere else is limited to just two cities.
South and Central American users are limited to servers in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Costa Rica, and there’s only one server to connect to in Africa (located in South Africa). Over time, Surfshark are planning to significantly expand their server network, starting with more city-level servers in the US and going from there.
You can find the complete and up-to-date list of Surfshark server locations by country on the website below.
Platforms & Devices
Surfshark currently offers custom apps for Microsoft Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android devices, with simple workarounds available for Linux. These involve a small element of manual configuration but if you follow the setup guides on Surfshark’s website you shouldn’t have too many problems. You can also install the VPN at router level to protect all of the connected devices in your household without having to install individual apps on each one – you can find the list of compatible routers in with the setup guides.
We really like that Surfshark doesn’t have a restriction on the number of devices you can use the VPN on at once, unlike most other providers that set the limit at around five. This means that you can protect your family’s devices as well as your own, ensuring everyone’s personal information remains private.
Surfshark offers proxy extensions for both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers. These are incredibly easy to use and can be downloaded and added to your browser in a matter of seconds if you already have a Surfshark account. They work in much the same way as the main VPN apps, allowing you to select a virtual location and appear to be connecting out from that location rather than your real one.
The downside of these extensions is that they only protect your browser traffic, while the apps encrypt the traffic of your entire device, including all browsers and applications (such as Spotify or Netflix). While this may lead to improved performance, which will appeal to heavy browser users, those who may forget and open up additional applications should probably just use the main app, as this will save you from accidentally diverting any traffic outside of the VPN tunnel.
A recent audit conducted by independent web security testers Cure53 discovered that Surfshark’s browser extensions “are not exposed to any issues, neither in the privacy nor in the general security realms”, which is excellent news. They uncovered two vulnerabilities rated with “low” severity but these have since been resolved to guarantee a “bullet proof service”. It’s very rare for Chrome and Firefox extensions to suffer from so few issues, meaning Surfshark stands out for its robust security. You can read the full report here.
Games Consoles & Streaming Devices
Surfshark can be used with all popular games consoles and streaming devices by connecting them to a configured router. This includes devices such as AppleTV, Google Chromecast, Sony PlayStation, Xbox, Roku and loads more. Surfshark has just released a native app for Amazon Fire TV Stick, which is great news for fans of the service. After speaking to customer support, we’ve been informed that there are no immediate plans on creating custom apps for games consoles.
If you don’t want to install the VPN at router level, unfortunately there’s no other way of using Surfshark with anything outside of the supported platforms. For simple, one-click solutions for gaming and streaming devices, you may want to look into a provider such as ExpressVPN, as they offer a MediaStreamer DNS service that’s designed to make this process as easy as possible.
Streaming & Torrenting
Surfshark is a great choice if you’re looking for quick, easy access to popular streaming sites such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer. We haven’t had any issues streaming Netflix content using the US servers, but we weren’t able to access BBC iPlayer through the desktop app during our latest tests. Thankfully, it worked perfectly using the browser extensions – just beware that these only encrypt your browser traffic, so shouldn’t be used as a complete substitute for the main app.
Unfortunately, there are currently no locations optimized for streaming, but hopefully, these will come at some point in the future. Excellent speeds mean you can watch your favorite shows in buffer-free HD without breaking a sweat, and a choice of city-level servers ensures that should one begin to stop working, you have plenty of other options to fall back on.
After speaking with the customer support team, we’d be a little hesitant to recommend Surfshark to torrenters, due to the fact that P2P activity is currently only permitted on one server (the Netherlands). We were informed that should you attempt to torrent on any other server, you will simply be disconnected and rerouted to the Netherlands, which isn’t ideal for users outside of Europe as it will lead to massively reduced speeds. There are much more reliable options out there for torrenters, such as our top pick for P2P – IPVanish.
Encryption & Security
Surfshark is well-suited to those seeking the highest levels of online privacy. If you use the Windows app you can choose between either OpenVPN and IKEv2. OpenVPN is our preferred protocol, providing the best balance between speed and security. The rest of the apps use IKEv2, which is still secure but it’s not open-sourced like OpenVPN, meaning it’s not possible to disprove suggestions of backdoors or other vulnerabilities. It is possible to use OpenVPN with them, but this requires an element of manual configuration. Encryption is via top cipher AES-256, which is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ and virtually unhackable.
The software comes with a handful of essential privacy features, such as a VPN kill switch, which prevents your true IP address from being exposed by cutting off all web traffic should the VPN connection drop for any reason. You’re also protected against DNS and WebRTC leaks, and the ‘CleanWeb’ feature detects and blocks adverts, trackers and malware, keeping your personal information safe from any potential snoopers or hackers.
We really like Surfshark’s MultiHop feature, that allows you to route your web traffic through two different VPN servers for an extra layer of encryption. There’s also a split tunneling option, meaning you can route certain applications or sites outside of the VPN tunnel if you don’t require that traffic to be encrypted – this will most likely improve performance too.
- OpenVPN (TCP/UDP)
- DNS Leak Blocking
- VPN Kill Switch
- WebRTC Leak Blocking
- Double VPN
- Split Tunneling
Following China’s recent crackdown on VPN providers, Surfshark is becoming less of a reliable option for those who are mainly going to be connecting out from that country. It is possible to use the app ‘with a few tweaks’ according to the support team, but this involves an element of manual setup using the OpenVPN configuration files. You’re also advised to only use the servers in Poland, Belgium or Ireland, and you have to email Surfshark in order for them to send you the individual IP addresses you need to connect to, as currently most of the Chinese ISPs are blocking VPNs at domain level.
This seems like a relatively complex process, especially in comparison to some VPN providers who offer additional obfuscation methods specifically designed for use in high-censorship countries. If you’re looking for a simpler solution, consider a provider such as VyprVPN, as their proprietary Chameleon protocol disguises your VPN connection as normal web traffic, giving you a much higher chance of beating the censors and accessing restricted content. Surfshark will probably do the job for a shorter trip, but we’d advise having a backup VPN just in case.
Surfshark’s lack of additional obfuscation tools means it’s not the best choice for use in other countries with high levels of internet censorship, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran or Turkey. Again, it should be sufficient if you’re just going on holiday, but anyone that needs consistently unrestricted internet access should look elsewhere.
Surfshark is about as close as you can get to being totally zero-logs, collecting only anonymous connection metadata in order to “maintain a perfect quality of [its] services and provide you with efficient support”. This includes aggregated performance, the frequency of use of the service, unsuccessful connection attempts and ‘other similar information’. As you can see, none of these statistics contain any details that could be used to personally identify you, and are collected purely for diagnostic and troubleshooting purposes.
This is a great example of a VPN provider that prioritizes user privacy but also wants to guarantee the best possible performance. Collecting this kind of information allows Surfshark to keep an eye on server load and introduce new locations where it’s seeing increased demand, as well as solve customer problems quickly and efficiently.
Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands, making it exempt from the intrusive surveillance laws and intelligence-sharing agreements we’re used to seeing in the US and across Europe. This means that it’s not required to collect or store any kind of customer data, so even if it was to receive any information requests from law enforcement agencies or other third parties, it would simply have nothing to hand over.
What’s more, Surfshark has published a warrant canary that they update on a regular basis, informing users of any recent data requests from outside organizations. As of October 24, 2018, it has received:
- 0 National Security letters
- 0 Gag orders
- 0 Warrants from a government organization
This is really reassuring to see from a user perspective, as it confirms that your personal information is in safe hands. We will be checking this warrant canary on a regular basis to ensure this section of the review is kept up to date.
Ease of Use
Surfshark’s custom app for Microsoft Windows is very simple and user-friendly without lacking the essential advanced security features. The main screen displays your chosen server location, connection status and a big on/off button. The Surfshark logo changes from blue to green when you connect to the VPN, and once you’re connected you’re also able to view your new virtual IP address, which we really like. The app automatically selects the best performing server for you, but you can access the full list of locations by clicking the button at the bottom of the screen – this is organized alphabetically but there’s also a handy search feature. You can also view all of the ‘MultiHop’ servers by clicking in the top right-hand corner – these locations allow you to route your traffic through two different VPN servers and are recommended for the most security-focused users.
You can find the advanced settings behind the cog icon in the top right-hand corner of the main screen. These are organized into four different tabs: Connectivity, Notifications, Security and Advanced. Here, you can configure the kill switch and split tunneling feature, as well as toggle between UDP and TCP for OpenVPN or select IKEv2. The contextual information that comes with each of these settings will be useful for VPN beginners and experienced users alike, as will the handy feature that lets you know whether or not you’re using the most up-to-date version of the software.
Downloading and installing Surfshark is pretty simple, even if you’ve never used a VPN before. Once you’ve signed up for your chosen subscription, simply download the relevant app for your device and follow the prompts given to you by the installation wizard. These are pretty self-explanatory but should you get really stuck, Surfshark offers a series of step-by-step installation guides on their website to walk you through the process.
When you launch the software for the first time, you’ll be presented with some of the key features you can configure on the app, but you can skip through these if you don’t want to read them. After this, all that’s left to do is log in and start using the VPN.
We were pleasantly surprised with the high level of customer support offered by Surfshark. The online resources aren’t as in-depth as we’ve seen from some other providers, but they are incredibly well-organized and will solve the majority of issues you’re likely to encounter while using the service. There are also detailed setup guides for all supported platforms, including routers, all of which include helpful screenshots to guide you through the process step-by-step.
Where Surfshark really shines is its genuinely 24/7 live chat support, which isn’t very common at this bargain price point. We were always answered within a matter of seconds by a friendly, knowledgeable support agent that went above and beyond to make sure our issue was resolved, and some even went as far as to ask for recommendations on how we’d improve the service. Email responses were also very quick and you could tell the agent knew what they were talking about, which was reassuring. We can only hope this standard of customer service is maintained as Surfshark’s user base begins to grow.
The Bottom Line
- Reliable local download speeds of up to 55Mbps
- Works with Netflix and BBC iPlayer
- User-friendly apps, quick and easy setup
- Connect securely to 50 countries
- Very strict zero-logs policy
- Manual config required for Linux
- Torrenting only permitted in the Netherlands
Surfshark is a streamlined, user-friendly VPN that’s ideal for beginners and experienced users alike. It offers incredible value on the two-year subscription, and a generous 30-day money-back guarantee means you can thoroughly test out the service before purchase. It offers reliable speeds on local connections, but above-average latency and strict torrenting restrictions will prompt gamers and P2P users to look elsewhere. Consistent access to Netflix and BBC iPlayer is good news for streaming fans, as is a native app for Amazon Fire TV.
Surfshark offers a high level of privacy, boasting advanced features such as a VPN kill switch, DNS and WebRTC leak protection and an ad-tracker blocker. They also only collect anonymous connection metadata, meaning it’s about as close as you can get to being zero-logs without sacrificing server performance, and the fact that it’s based in a privacy-friendly jurisdiction is really reassuring.
The software is modern and uncluttered with a decent amount of configurable settings, although we would have liked to see a native app for Linux rather than manual workarounds. Customer support is absolutely brilliant, with loads of useful online resources and genuinely 24/7 live chat with friendly, helpful agents. Surfshark is a good choice if you’re looking for a simple, hassle-free VPN solution for general browsing and streaming.