SurfsharkVPN Review: is it really that good?
Surfshark is a well-respected virtual private network (VPN) that is based out of the British Virgin Islands. For those users looking to get extra security and anonymity online, this outlet is quite popular. But how does it stack up against its competitors? We analyzed several aspects of Surfshark to determine what we think about the service. The bottom line: it’s a great option that can be on the high end of pricing on a monthly basis, but it is well worth the money.
Check out the “What is a VPN?” page to learn more about how virtual private networks work and why you might need them.
In short, VPNs are networks of servers spread across the globe. By using one, you can keep your IP address, location, and private data away from prying eyes. In the modern era of surveillance states and corporations vying for your information, privacy and security are sought-after luxuries. VPNs protect your anonymity and your privacy information.
Surfshark is an excellent choice when it comes to selecting the right VPN for your needs. For example, unlike many other VPNs, it uses the relatively new trend of RAM-based data. 100% of its servers are RAM-only, providing you with additional security against having your information stolen.
Our one major quibble is its pricing. On a monthly basis, subscription fees for Surfshark are up there with the most expensive in the industry. However, this is offset by affordable yearly plans.
Pros & Cons
When selecting a VPN for your specific needs, you want to make sure you weigh all the positive and negative aspects of each service. We’ve done that with Surfshark below for quick reference.
- Surfshark offers unlimited device connections, unlike many of its competitors
- Surfshark has been audited by independent sources, so you can trust its claims
- “Whitelisting” service allows you to manually select which devices use the VPN and which don’t
- Offers round-the-clock support for any issues you run into
- 100% of its servers are RAM-only (a rarity in this industry)
- Allows torrenting
- Connections are available for most apps
- Unblocks many of the most popular streaming services
- Works with:
- No free trial
- Relatively expensive month-to-month subscriptions
- Some reported issues with the kill switch
- Speeds are not top-tier
Surfshark has subscriptions for monthly, six-month, and two-year-long increments. Its monthly subscription is nearly $13.00, which is on the high end of the spectrum for VPNs. However, this is mainly to incentivize its longer-term packages, which are relatively cheap. Two-year-long subscriptions run about $2.49 per month, and six-month packages cost $6.49 per month.
Additionally, the company provides users with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you decide that you are unhappy with the services within that first month, you can cancel your subscription and get your money back. This is a good offering, but it’s also fairly standard among most VPNs we have analyzed. Some even offer a more generous guarantee that lasts for 45 days.
2-Year Plan$249Per Month
Billed USD 59.76 now, & annually after the first 24 monthsSave 80%
Surfshark has subscriptions for monthly, six-month, and two-year-long increments.
Lagging and slow speeds are the bane of internet users everywhere. One common issue with VPNs is a reduction in browsing speed, since additional security protocols, encryption, and connections to servers in other countries can slow down the workings of your computer.
Surfshark suffers a little bit in this arena. When running OpenVPN protocols, the VPN lags behind other companies with speeds generally between 70 and 105 Mbps. However, Surfshark can also use the more state-of-the-art WireGuard protocol, which reportedly doubles the speed. Depending on which you use on your devices, the speed can range from slightly below average to pretty darn good.
Surfshark’s server network is currently set at more than 3,200 servers in over 60 countries. That’s an impressive array, and it outclasses many of even the most popular competition in the VPN arena. Even better, these servers’ locations are relatively evenly spread out, with several in Europe, Africa, the Americas, and beyond. This allows users to effectively mask their true location, unblock geo-restricted online services, and protect their personal data.
For reference, 3,200 servers rivals popular competitor ExpressVPN in network size. There are a handful of larger VPNs out there, but Surfshark is certainly respectable.
|No limits||you can connect as many devices to your account as you want|
|Multihop tool||to add layers of anonymity, users can connect through several servers in different countries, all at the same time|
|No logs||like many VPNs, Surfshark advertises a strict no-log policy|
|Apps||iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, macOS, gaming consoles, and more|
|Security measures||uses top-of-the-line 256-bit encryption as well as IKEv2, IPSec, and OpenVPN|
|Decent server network||more than 3,200 servers across 60+ countries|
|Max protection||DNS and IP leak prevention using IPv4 stack|
|Security audit||its privacy and security features have been verified by third-party analysts|
|Subscriptions||monthly, yearly, and half-year increments|
|Money-back guarantee||available for up to 30 days|
Surfshark’s server network is currently set at more than 3,200 servers in over 60 countries.
User interfaces in VPNs have to strike a fine balance. On one hand, many users will be new to the VPN scene, so creators should design an interface that is welcoming and user-friendly. On the other hand, many of the features provided by VPNs are inherently complex, and having a full range of control over them is often a selling point for VPN veteran users.
Surfshark’s user experience is pretty good. You can use its beginner-friendly suggestions or right-click to expose more features. There is an easy-to-use Multihop system that sends your internet traffic through a chain of different servers and locations. There’s also a Whitelister that allows you to manually select which of your devices will use the VPN and which will go through your normal channels. This may all be technical jargon to some, but experienced VPN users will enjoy the straightforward, simple-to-use interface.
Surfshark excels at versatility, allowing for usage on a wide range of apps. You can download it for iOS and Android phones, tablets, gaming consoles, and even Smart TVs. The popular Amazon Fire TV also has its own app.
For mobile apps, Surfshark offers basically the same features and interface as its desktop and laptop versions. It uses the same protocols, has Whitelisting and Multihop capabilities, and even allows users to select small packets only so that performance is improved. We were also pleasantly surprised at the presence of in-app reporting mechanisms. If something goes wrong, you can send a bug report through the app itself without having to access a third-party site.
- English (US)
- English (UK)
- English (AU)
Like most VPNs, Surfshark has a strict no-logs policy. What does that mean? Well, traditional ISPs and websites log your usage, keeping tabs on your IP address, which sites you visit, and other bits of personal data. This can be used to track your online traffic or to cater to advertisements to you according to your browsing history. VPNs like Surfshark pledge to never log your information, so there is no data available about your traffic.
Here, Surfshark stands out among its competitors. It recently upgraded all its servers to be RAM-only, which means that any data that remains on the server is automatically deleted whenever the server reboots (which is regularly). Also, the company underwent an independent audit in 2018 to confirm many of its security and privacy claims.
Split tunneling is the ability to be able to select which apps or devices use the VPN and which go through your usual internet service provider (ISP). Like many VPNs, Surfshark offers split tunneling capabilities. Its version is called “Whitelisting,” but it amounts to the same thing. You can decide which websites, apps, etc. will be protected under the VPN at any given time, providing you substantial control over your personal information and privacy.
Surfshark uses AES 256-bit encryption. This means the data about your traffic and usage is encrypted via a 256-bit key. For reference, even the fastest computer currently on Earth would take millions of years to brute-force its way into cracking this encryption. AES-256 encryption is among the safest available, so you can rest assured that your information is secure with Surfshark.
Most people would choose to have more security and privacy regarding their browsing history and online activity. Surfshark provides that, with easy-to-use extensions for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers. These extensions can be configured to run whenever you boot up your web browser, keeping your information nice and protected.
Kill switches are designed to cut you off from the internet whenever the software recognizes that your connection to the VPN server has been severed. In other words, if you get disconnected from the VPN server, the kill switch should engage and immediately yank you from the internet. Why would you want that? Well, if a VPN does not have a kill switch, you could lose connection to its server and revert to your usual server while still thinking your information is protected by the VPN’s security protocols. Meanwhile, your information is exposed.
Surfshark provides a standard kill switch. Some quibbles have been reported with this service, however. Users have complained that the client drops the internet connection without telling the user the reason, which can be an annoyance. Additionally, there is no notification about losing connection to the server if you have the kill switch disengaged.
RAM-only is a new mode that some of the most cutting-edge VPNs have begun to use. RAM-only drives do not store information on a disk as usual. Instead, they store it briefly as Random Access Memory. The simple way to explain this is that any information about your usage of the VPN is erased completely every time the server is rebooted. Most VPNs reboot servers regularly, so RAM-only storage means you should virtually never have any information about your usage stored, anywhere.
We’re happy to report that Surfshark has upgraded 100% of its servers to RAM-only. This is a huge benefit to anyone who cares about security and privacy.
With hacking, doxxing, DDoS attacks, and other instances of cybercrimes, privacy has become an increasingly important factor in online gaming circles. Luckily, Surfshark has apps for the major consoles (Xbox and Playstation), and its usual extensions and apps for desktop and laptop clients can be used for online gaming as well.
In short, when you use Surfshark to game, your data should remain safe and secure.
There are many privacy and security measures built into the desktop and laptop Surfshark clients. Protocols like OpenVPN, IPSec, and IKEv2 are all available, as well as AES 256-bit encryption. Also, the NoBorders feature unique to Surfshark should hide the fact that you are even using a VPN in the first place, allowing you to access its services even in countries that do not allow the use of a VPN.
There are no changes in security features as far as different browsers are concerned. Whether you use the Chrome extension, the Firefox extension, or browse through a Linux-based browser, you will be protected by high-level security protocols and encryption. The NoBorders feature works with all browsers, and a feature called CleanWeb removes ads and potential malware.
Surfshark impressed us with its array of security measures and with the fact that it has backed these up through an independent audit. That’s something many VPNs have not done.
Many of the same security measures are available on mobile and tablet devices as on desktop and laptop clients. For example, the split-tunneling “Whitelisting” feature is available, as well as the Multihop feature that allows you to mask your internet traffic by passing your IP address through several VPN servers at once. The same protocols and encryption apply, as well as the kill switch option.
Again, we’re not perfectly clear on the issue of routers with Surfshark. The company does not appear to advertise the use of its services on routers at all. However, if you do try to use Surfshark through a router, make sure it can use one of the protocols that Surfshark requires, such as OpenVPN, IKEv2, or IPSec.
Importantly, Surfshark provides you with an unlimited number of connections and devices on your account. This means you shouldn’t need to use a router at all, since you can simply connect directly to the VPN on all your devices.
You may be familiar with the Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and 14 Eyes Countries. These are three different surveillance alliances that participate in laws that can infringe on your online privacy. While the United Kingdom is a part of these alliances, and the British Virgin Islands is a territory of the UK, the BVI governs itself. This means that it exists outside these surveillance alliances and has laws dedicated to preserving citizens’ privacy.
Since Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands, it can allow users legally-backed privacy measures that some VPNs in other locations cannot. That’s another mark in the win column.
We’re unclear about routers and Surfshark. There are no specific firmware requirements listed, and the VPN doesn’t advertise its clients as being used on routers.
All VPNs talk the talk of security and privacy. They all say they don’t log private information, they all claim high-level encryption and security protocols, etc. However, very few of them have undergone outside audits to confirm these claims. One significant positive for Surfshark is that it has done this.
However, we do have to point out some issues here. The external audit it underwent came back in 2018, and we’d like to see that updated. It also didn’t address all the claims Surfshark makes regarding security and privacy. However, remember, most VPNs don’t have any outside audits at all, so any amount of accountability is always a good move.
The Lightway protocol is a new protocol developed by Surfshark’s competitor ExpressVPN. ExpressVPN is thus the only company that currently uses this supposedly more secure protocol. Still, the OpenVPN, IPSec, and IKEv2 protocols that Surfshark uses are all standard for the VPN world and are still highly secure.
How to install
Setting up Surfshark is even easier than most other VPNs. You simply download the software, install the client following the usual step-by-step instructions, and then select the plan you want. Unlike some other VPN competitors, Surfshark also allows you to pay for your subscription directly in the client app rather than through a third-party pop-up.
Once you’ve installed the client, the interface should be revealed, allowing you to click on a Connect button that will send you to the best available server. You can also easily expand or minimize the client window and it will automatically adjust to show more or fewer features. This is super useful, as it means you can make the process as hands-on or as automated as you want, depending on whether you are familiar with VPNs or are a new user.
The good news with Surfshark is that 24/7 customer support is available.
The company also has resources online, though users have reported some problems with the available information. For starters, the search mechanism seems to have some issues, as it does not always connect you with relevant information. Still, live chat and round-the-clock support count for something. On mobile devices, you can also send a bug report directly from the app.
Streaming and Torrenting
One of the most popular reasons for using a VPN is to stream content. In many cases, services like Netflix, iPlayer, Disney+, and Hulu (just to name a few) block content on the basis of your geographical location. if you live in the United States but want to watch a show that is only available in Europe, you’re out of luck unless you use a VPN to “trick” the service into thinking you are in Europe. Surfshark effectively unblocks all major streaming services, making it ideal for most users.
Torrenting (or sharing files between users, also known as P2P or peer-to-peer sharing) is another popular reason for using a VPN. Some companies do not allow this on their services, but all of Surfshark’s servers are P2P friendly. Torrent to your heart’s content!
Gaming and Consoles
Surfshark has apps for both Playstation and Xbox consoles. This allows you to game online without revealing your identity, location, or other personal information. You can also use it through your laptop, desktop, or router to connect to online gaming sites.
When using the VPN through a connected console, you do not need any additional equipment. Also, you are protected from hacker and DDoS attacks.
Desktop and Laptops
Many users will primarily make use of Surfshark on desktops or laptops, and it’s clear that this arena is where the company has staked its claim. The interface allows you to customize favorite servers, displays helpful information about server availability, and more. Plus, the desktop and laptop clients offer a tool called NoBorders. The inner workings of this are unclear, but the idea is that it masks your location to allow the use of Surfshark even in areas that do not allow VPNs.
As explained below, the client offers versatility with browser extensions. These allow for quick access to the client and an easy-to-use experience even for beginners. Plus, the company provides clients with a kill switch. This cuts off access to the internet if a connection to the VPN server is dropped.
While Surfshark is available on many operating systems, such as Linux, MacOS, and Windows, it has dedicated extensions available for download for these browsers:
- Google Chrome
- Mozilla Firefox
Extensions allow you to connect to the VPN services at the simple click of a button. Since these two browsers are among the most popular, many users will surely take advantage of them. Browsing through a VPN like Surfshark is a great way to mask your internet usage and history, keep your personal data private, and protect your devices from outside influences like hackers or corporate interests. Plus, Surfshark comes with Ad-blockers and other features that make the web-browsing experience much more pleasant.
Mobile and Tablets
Surfshark is at the forefront of VPNs in that it allows you an unlimited number of devices on your subscription. Once you subscribe to Surfshark, you can use it on all your mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones. The apps for these devices, unlike other VPNs’, contain most of the same features as their desktop and laptop counterparts, including multi-hop and “whitelisting” or split tunneling features.
We were impressed with the mobile and tablet versions of Surfshark. They are more robust than many of the company’s competitors’ versions, as most VPNs tend to reduce the number of features substantially on smartphones. An added bonus is the ability to run the VPN with small packets, improving performance.
There’s no information on Surfshark’s website about its compatibility with routers. However, this shouldn’t be a huge issue, as it allows you to connect to its services from an unlimited number of devices. Routers are typically used to connect several devices to a VPN through a single connection. Since Surfshark doesn’t limit the number of connections, you’re free to simply download the client directly onto any device.
Surfshark is a comprehensive VPN that offers a wide range of unique features like CleanWeb and NoBorders VPN masking. It is easy to use, based in a privacy-friendly location and has an impressive array of over 3,200 servers in 65 countries. Couple this with 24/7 support, an external audit to confirm its security and privacy claims, and unlimited device connections, and you’ve got yourself a perfect mix of VPN offerings.
On the downside, there are some reported glitches with Surfshark’s kill switch that we’d like to see improved for added safety. There is also no information about whether the VPN can be used on routers, nor is there a list of firmware requirements. However, the fact that there is no limit to the number of device connections per account means that this truly shouldn’t be an issue for users.
We recommend Surfshark wholeheartedly as a VPN that lives up to the hype. Its monthly payment plan is rather expensive, but it’s worth it. Plus, if you need to use a VPN for the long term, your monthly fees will be substantially lower (at only $2.49 per month for a two-year subscription).
Is Surfshark fast?
Surfshark can have a range of speeds depending on the protocols you use and your location. If you are based in the United States, you will tend to have faster speeds than in Europe, according to our research. While it certainly isn’t the fastest VPN around, we found that using the WireGuard protocol greatly increased its speed. The problem is that most users will want to use the more common OpenVPN protocol, for which Surfshark has a slower range of speeds than its counterparts.
Is Surfshark free?
You must pay for the use of Surfshark. The company, as of this writing, does not offer a free trial. In fact, its month-to-month subscription rates are on the high end of the spectrum, at nearly $13.00 per month. However, its monthly rates for long-term subscriptions (from six-month intervals to two years) are very low, at $2.49 per month.
Is Surfshark good for torrenting?
Yes, absolutely. All of the more than 3,200 servers in the Surfshark network are P2P friendly, so you can torrent as much as you want. Plus, given its location in the privacy-friendly territory of the British Virgin Islands, Surfshark is not in danger of government crackdowns on torrenting.
Is Surfshark legal?
Using Surfshark, or any other VPN, is legal. However, that does not mean the way that you use it, or your online internet behavior in general will be legal. Just as with your internet service provider, you can use the tools given to you in illegal ways. Still, Surfshark is based in the British Virgin Islands, whose laws greatly favor free internet usage, VPNs, and privacy policies.