VPN Review: Surfshark
Surfshark is relatively new to the hotly-contested VPN market, promising things which many other programs have long offered, such as secure surfing, online anonymity, and the ability to bypass geo-blocks for streaming or surfing. Our test shows whether Surfshark devours, or is devoured by its competition.
What is Surfshark?
Surfshark is a VPN provider headquartered in the British Virgin Islands that has been active on the market since 2017. It is compatible with Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android, and iOS, as well as FireTV and AppleTV. The service also offers browser ad-ons for Chrome and Firefox. VPN connections to additional devices like gaming consoles and smart TVs can be easily set up with a few steps. We tested Surfshark on Windows and Android.
Pros and Cons
A number of features, including split tunneling
2-year package is a bargain
The size of the server network could be increased
Speeds are only acceptable in comparison to the best VPN providers
Installation and Features
An overview of the systems supported by Surfshark is visible on the company's website, and the program is quickly installed. Since no free version exists, it is necessary to create an account and choose from one of the subscription options before accessing the program's dashboard. More is written about the various Surfshark subscription options and rates below.
The program's interface is clear and easy to use. A blue button on the main screen connects you automatically to the fastest server in the nearest country. Directly under the button is a list which displays the most-recently used connections.
The "not connected" tab hides your IP address, while the kill switch deactivates your internet connection in case the VPN connection is lost. This ensures that your IP address will not be made public, and that your connection will not create any problems.
To the left of the menu in the main window is a module for different locations, additional functions, settings, and a mini-mode, which makes the dashboard less visible. This slimmed-down version features an on-off switch and a drop-down location selector.
Alongside the complete list of locations, there are three further categories: Favorites, static IP, and multi-hop routing. Favorites can be chosen by clicking on the star symbol next to a server. Locations with static IPs have the same IP address even when you sever the connection and reconnect. However, these are not dedicated IPs, and are shared with other users. Multi-hop routing create a VPN connection between two countries, adding an additional level of security and anonymity.
Surfshark also doesn't possess dedicated streaming or P2P servers. During our test, we were able to fool Netflix and the BBC iPlayer into allowing us to access American and British content, respectively.
Among the other functions offered on the program's menu is the CleanWeb ad-blocker, that blocks advertisements, malware, and trackers. Surfshark supports split tunneling through its white-lister, which allows for selected websites or apps to be exempted from the VPN connection.
The program also offers an email leak check via its web dashboard. The BlindSearch function there enables an incognito search mode which returns organic results free from advertisements or logging.
Alongside the creation of an automatic connection in the settings, it is also possible to select a VPN protocol, as will be discussed in greater detail below in the security and privacy section.
Surfshark's mobile app is very similar to its desktop version. The menus are (except for the mini version) the same, however, the menu is on the bottom of the screen of the mobile app. All extra features, including split tunneling, kill switch, multi-hop routing, and the ad-blocker are accessible on the mobile app.
Those looking for more detailed information about the performance or upload and download speeds of servers, will be disappointed. Apart from this, however, there is little to complain about with Surfshark: Its program and app are visually appealing, easy to use, and possess all important features, including split tunneling, which even among the top contenders in our test, is not a given.
Score: 4.7 / 5
Surfshark's 1,700 servers are spread across 63 countries. Most of these are located in Europe, however, the service also has some presence elsewhere in the world. As so often, Africa and the Middle East are the least-represented, with only five servers (Libya, Nigeria, South Africa, Israel, and Turkey) catering to these huge areas.
Surfshark is (still) unable to go toe-to-toe with the VPN heavyweights, however, for such a young service, it does have a respectable geographic presence.
Grade: 4.7 / 5
The speed of all VPNs which we tested was evaluated using a server in Europe with a 1 GB/s connection. We tested random Surfshark servers at different times of the day to more accurately evaluate their speeds and performance. More information concerning our methodology can be found in our VPN speed test.
The table below shows the average results from the last 365 days, arranged in order of download and upload speed (descending):
With a download speed of 123.0 MB/s and an upload speed of 42.7 MB/s, Surfshark achieved tenth place in our ranking. In comparison to the test leader ExpressVPN, Surfshark fared decently.
The chart below shows Surfshark's average speeds over the past months.
Grade: 4.0 / 5
Security and Privacy
Surfshark's data traffic is encrypted using AES 256-bit encryption, which is considered to be the most secure on the market. For improved speed on Android, ChaCha20 can be used.
On Windows and Android Surfshark supports the OpenVPN (TCP and UDP), IKEv2, and Shadowsock protocols. For iOS, Shadowsock is not available, while for MacOS, only IKEv2 is supported. The selection of protocols on Windows and Android is fairly wide, however, for Mac users, there are very few options.
In 2018, the independent security auditing company, Cure53, conducted an audit of Surfshark's browser ad-ons. The testers reached the conclusion that the program's ad-ons "make a very robust impression and are not exposed to any issues, neither in the privacy nor in the more general security realms."
Grade: 4.7 / 5
Surfshark's help center contains general FAQs and a knowledge base with tutorials, as well as general and payment information. Although we were told that more languages were available for the help center, we could not find any apart from English.
Surfshark can be directly contacted via 24/7 live-chat or support ticket. On each occasion, it took roughly a minute for us to establish contact with helpful support personnel; our support email was answered after roughly seven hours.
Queries in languages other than English were answered by the live-chat support personnel using automatic translations.
Surfshark's short response time gains it points in our test, however, multi-lingual personnel would be a welcome addition.
Score: 4.7 / 5
As in many other cases, the longer the subscription with Surfshark, the lower the monthly price. At 82% less than the monthly price, the 2-year subscription is a true bargain among even the least expensive VPN providers. An overview of the current prices can be found in the table below:
|24 months||6 months||1 month|
|Price per month||$2.49||$6.49||$12.95|
|Contract period (months)||24||6||1|
|Number of devices||unlimited||unlimited||unlimited|
|Number of servers||1,040||1,040||1,040|
|Number of countries||61||61||61|
Surfshark can be paid for with credit card, PayPal, Google Pay, Amazon Pay, cryptocurrencies, Alipay, or instant transfer. Special organizational or corporate rates are not offered.
Surfshark may be relatively new to the landscape of VPN providers, and surpassed in speed or performance, however, it is anything but a lightweight. The program is intuitive to use, possesses a number of features, offers good support, and provides excellent security, making it, irrespective of its (low) price, a solid choice. The service's 2-year package, the cheapest among those we've reviewed, makes it perfect in the eyes of many users. There is room for improvement in regards to the size of the service's network, as well as its upload and download speeds. If Surfshark improved either of these aspects, this late bloomer would pose a serious challenge to the established all-round test winners.
Most reviews on Trustpilot are positive, with 85% of users rating it "excellent" or "good". The service's solid price-performance ratio is the reason for much of this. Alternatively, most criticism of the service is related to the speed of the connections.
In regards to performance and server network, Surfshark definitely has room for improvement. ExpressVPN, our test winner, has definite advantages in both of these areas, however, is a bit more expensive. In terms of price, the free service, Windscribe, is our top pick, but among the paid services, Surfshark's 2-year package is a definite bargain.