Surfshark VPN Review: The ‘Hidden Gem’ of VPNs?
As a trusted source, we’re always looking for the ‘hidden gems’ or the ‘underdog’ of VPN. And it looks like we may have found one.
Although Surfshark was established only in 2017, they’ve managed to become pretty popular among users. We suspect that has something to do with their simple business model - better services for cheaper prices.
In this Surfshark VPN review, we tested their speeds, security, compatibility with Netflix and torrents, and other factors.
And after we finished our tests, they came out nearly excellent everywhere.
What else could you ask for?
Usually, providers will limit your connection count to 3-10 instances. Surfshark does the opposite and hasn’t put any connection limits in place.
So potentially, you could purchase one subscription, and share it with your friends and family.
(Though we’d be careful with that because sharing login details is prohibited.)
You can try out any of the plans, and get a full refund in the first 30 days if you’re not satisfied.
We tested if these claims are real, and were able to get a full refund after a week of using their services. What’s more, we got the refund in our PayPal account just minutes after inquiring, which is uncommon for VPN.
Although it isn’t the fastest VPN out there, it’s definitely on the quicker end.
We saw no speed losses for near-distance connections and 10-40% losses for long-distance ones.
You won’t get anything as fast as Surfshark in the affordable end of VPNs. In fact, in speed, they’re performing similarly to the most popular (and costly) VPNs out there - ExpressVPN.
When you’re getting Surfshark for a month or 12 months, they’re not that cheap. But if you subscribe for 36 months, you’ll get it only for $1.99 per month.
So if you do decide to go with them, it’s better to get the 36-month plan for $71.64. If you’re not satisfied in the first 30 days, you’ll get a full refund anyway.
The good thing is that they supports Netflix, which means that if their servers get blocked in the future, they’ll work on unblocking them ASAP.
We tested five randomly selected servers for Netflix compatibility, and all five were working seamlessly. So if you’re looking for a cheap VPN for Netflix, Surfshark is a rock-solid choice.
The only thing that we didn’t like is that we couldn’t select specific servers.
Most other providers will let you select a specific server. On Surfshark you can select only a region, and then you’ll be connected to the fastest server in that region.
And If you’re assigned with a blacklisted or slow server, you’ll be stuck with it.
Speed and reliability
To see how fast their servers are, we performed several speed tests.
Speed results without a VPN
First, we had to get a good baseline result without the VPN turned on. We used a 4G connection from Europe, and, on average, our download speed was 15-25 Mbps.
You can see the average speed results over here.
Next, we turned on Surfshark’s VPN and measured the average speed from different locations.
Speed results with Surfshark from Europe
From Germany, our download speed was 17.62 Mbps.
From Sweden, our download speed was 18.37 Mbps.
From the United Kingdom, our download speed was 24.85 Mbps.
As you can see, all results were in the 15-25 Mbps range. In Europe, it performed without any speed losses.
That’s great because it’s not uncommon to see 10-30% speed losses from Europe on other VPNs.
Speed results with Surfshark from the U.S.
From Los Angeles, our download speed was 15.27 Mbps.
From New York, our download speed was 16.62 Mbps.
From Seattle, our download speed was 13.77 Mbps.
From the U.S., we saw speed losses of 10-30%. We weren’t able to get a result over 20 Mbps.
This is somewhat normal because the industry standard for Europe - U.S. connections is around 20 - 40%.
Speed results with Surfshark from Asia
From Hong Kong, our download speed was 21.68 Mbps.
From Japan, our download speed was 9.36 Mbps.
From Singapore, our download speed was 17.647 Mbps.
From Asian servers, it’s not uncommon to see speed losses of 30-70% even from well-known VPN providers.
They performed better, and overall, we saw only 20-40% speed losses for Europe - Asia connections. Not too bad, because the second most popular option out there - NordVPN - performed with over 90% speed losses.
How fast is Surfshark?
When compared with other providers, Surfshark is on the quicker end. It performed better than NordVPN, similar to ExpressVPN, but not as fast as IPVanish.
These speed losses were so insignificant that you basically wouldn’t feel them by using the VPN normally.
That said, if you’re looking for the best possible speeds out there, you should be better off with PrivateVPN, IPVanish, or Private Internet Access.
Is Surfshark reliable?
To test the reliability, we used Surfshark’s VPN for several hours for various purposes - browsing the web, watching Netflix, and downloading torrents. We also changed the location quite a few times to determine if some servers are less reliable than others.
And overall, we can say that it is pretty stable and reliable. At least on European and U.S. servers.
However, we did find a few Asian servers that were slower than others. Some worked with 50-80% speed losses, and on other faster ones, like Hong Kong, the readings were inconsistent. One test showed no speed losses, and the next two revealed over 60% speed losses.
Not the worst performance on Asian servers we’ve seen, but there’s definitely some room for improvement.
How often is Surfshark down?
It is still in its infancy, so we expected to see some downtime.
To our surprise, we didn’t find any instances of it being down in the last two (nearly two) years of its existence.
Is Surfshark safe?
Overall, this provider is considered safe. They’re using the most secure encryption methods up to date, so you shouldn’t worry about getting hacked over public networks.
By default, all Surfshark’s apps use the IKEv2/IPsec tunneling protocol, but you’ll be able to easily switch to OpenVPN TCP/UDP if you need to. On some other VPN, switching between tunneling protocols is complicated and requires custom configurations.
But that’s not the case with Surfshark, because you’ll be able to do that through the app settings.
Both IKEV2 and OpenVPN are considered very secure and fast tunneling protocols so your data will be pretty secure.
It uses AES 256-bit encryption, which is used by almost all providers. It’s considered the most secure encryption method out there and recommended by the NSA for encrypting top-secret documents.
Up to this date, no computer has been able to crack it.
No IPV4, IPV6, WebRTC, and DNS leaks
Some ‘poorly configured’ VPNs will leak your browsing history or your IPV6 / IPV4 address to your Internet Service Provider (ISP.) This won’t happen with Surfshark.
We tested for any potential information leaks, and we couldn’t find any. For this test, we used several online services, that look for potential leaks.
You can see the results below.
24/7 live chat support
They offer 24/7 live chat on their website. That’s awesome because some providers are still using email ticket systems, which are inconvenient and take a while to respond.
We tested how good their support is by asking for a full refund just a week after using their services.
Here’s how the conversation went:
As you can see, Lew was pretty fast to respond, polite, and didn’t ask too many questions. When we tried refunding on other VPNs, some were hesitant at first and tried really hard to get us to stay. Not the case with Surfshark.
Overall, we liked their support, which is why we can rate it at five out of five stars.
So if you ever run into any troubles with their services, expect to get help conveniently and quickly.
Surfshark’s device compatibility and apps
You’ll be able to use Surfshark on these devices, browsers, and Operating Systems (OS).
Dedicated setup tutorials:
As you can see, they’ve done a good job at making their VPN work on almost any device and OS, which is nice.
We think that Surfshark’s apps are one of the easiest to use between all VPNs. They’re minimal and simple, which is great for everyone who’s new to VPN.
Surfshark’s setup process
The user experience was lean and smooth right from the get-go, starting with the registration.
We entered our e-mail address, selected the plan, entered the payment details, and were redirected to the next page, where we could download the installer for their app.
After installing the Windows app and logging in, everything was working just as it should be. The process took no longer than three minutes.
How easy to use are Surfshark’s apps?
Here you can see Windows (left) and Android (right) apps side by side.
As you can see, the interface is clean and easy to understand.
If you're entirely new to VPNs, just select the “quick connect” button, or click the large “on/off” button, and you’ll be connected to a fast nearby server. If, however, you need a specific location, select one from a list, and click connect.
It really is that easy, because everything is set up by default. It’s made that way so people can start to use Surfshark’s VPN just a few minutes after entering their payment details.
Settings and customization
Now if you know a thing or two about VPNs, you should spend some time customizing the settings before you start using it.
Under the ‘Connectivity’ tab, you should enable the kill switch, start with windows, and set up a default server that you always want to connect to. This way you’ll always have the VPN turned on so that you don’t forget to turn it on before you’re entering an important password over a public network.
By default, Surfshark uses IKEv2 protocol, but under the ‘advanced’ tab, you’ll be able to change the protocol to OpenVPN.
Also, you can turn on the ‘NoBorders’ setting here, which is useful if you’re currently located in censored jurisdictions. This will (most of the times) bypass government firewalls, like the Great Firewall of China.
We especially liked the Wi-Fi protection, as seen in the picture above. Every time you connect to a new public network, you’ll be asked if you want to always connect to that network through a VPN.
This is handy because you can set up the VPN to always turn on over your work network and most visited cafes but not while connected to your home Wi-Fi. A simple but cool feature, that’s unique to Surfshark.
Locations and servers
For a relatively new provider, Surfshark offers a decent amount of servers and locations. In total, Surfshark has over 800+ servers in 50+ countries, which is pretty much.
To compare, their similarly sized competitor PrivateVPN offers only 120+ servers.
Although the server count is decent, their server allocation system makes the large number of servers kind of useless.
You won’t be able to select a specific server. Instead, you can select only a specific region. For instance, if they have 30 servers located in New York, you won’t be able to choose which one you’d like to connect to. Instead, you’ll be automatically connected to the fastest one.
This can be bad because sometimes you’ll be stuck with a server that’s blacklisted somewhere or is too slow. You won’t be able to switch to a different one in the same location.
Not a deal-breaker for us, but it might be for some.
Is Surfshark good for torrenting?
Torrents are usually pretty annoying for VPN providers. In fact, they’re also annoying to the rest of your family members when you’re downloading them over your home network. That’s because torrents take up a lot of bandwidth for one user, and slow down the connection considerably for the rest.
Due to this fact, a lot of providers intentionally slow down torrents or don’t allow them altogether. Not the case with Surfshark, because they’ve stated that torrenting is fully allowed, and no speed limits are enforced.
We tested how fast is their VPN with uTorrent, and we didn’t notice any significant speed losses. We managed to get pretty similar download speeds to what we got without a VPN. And by using them, our connection was impossible to track for hackers and local governments.
So we’d say that Surfshark is pretty good to use for torrenting.
Is Surfshark good for Netflix?
Nowadays, a lot of VPNs are banned on Netflix. That’s because Netflix is getting better at detecting users that use a VPN, and blocking their VPN's IP addresses.
So, of course, we had to test if Surfshark works with Netflix.
You’d want to use a VPN for Netflix in the first place because A LOT of shows are blocked on certain countries. Netflix has to pay for the licenses individually, so it doesn’t make sense for them to buy licenses for 30000 TV shows for every European country. With a VPN, you can change your location to the U.S., and access all the shows that are available there.
We tested five different U.S. locations, and on all five Netflix was working seamlessly. As you can see, the picture quality was also pretty good.
However, we noticed that currently, Netflix isn’t working from the Canadian servers. When confronted, Surfshark’s support said they’re already working on fixes, and that it should be working pretty soon.
What’s important here, is that Surfshark has stated on their site that they’re compatible with Netflix. This means that every time Netflix is blocked, Surfshark will be working on fixing the issue as soon as possible.
Does Surfshark work in China and other censored countries?
Yes, Surfshark works in highly censored countries, such as China, the Middle East, Vietnam, and other ones.
They’re so good at bypassing censorship because of their ‘NoBorders’ feature (that you can turn on in the advanced settings.) This option obfuscates your connection, so it’s harder for firewalls and ISP’s to detect that you’re using a VPN in the first place.
With it, you’ll be able to access Facebook, Youtube, Google, and other sites that are blocked due to censorship.
What jurisdiction is Surfshark VPN based in?
Surfshark, officially known as Surfshark Ltd. is located in the British Virgin Islands.
This is good because the British Virgin Islands is a private and secure jurisdiction that doesn’t have to cooperate with other governments. For instance, the NSA would have a hard time acquiring data from companies located there.
It’s pretty common for VPN providers to be located in offshore jurisdictions, and that shouldn’t be thought of as a bad thing. It’s actually worse to be located in the USA or Europe because they’re more accessible for intelligence agencies.
Surfshark’s ‘No logs’ policy
Even if an intelligence agency requested information about Surfshark’s users, they wouldn’t have any. That’s because Surfshark isn’t collecting any logs.
They’re pretty clear about this fact, as seen in this screenshot...
However, it’s not uncommon for providers to say that they aren’t collecting any logs, when in fact they actually are.
After finishing our research, we can recommend Surfshark as a private and safe VPN for those who need to keep their data private at all costs.
We like that Surfshark offers a few unique features that set them apart from the competition. We’ve listed the most important ones down below.
The kill switch won’t be turned on by default, but you can change that by visiting the ‘connectivity’ tab in the settings.
Essentially, the kill switch will block all incoming and outgoing traffic once you’re disconnected. This is good because your real IP will always remain hidden, even when the VPN accidentally disconnects.
While the kill switch isn’t too important for Netflix, we recommend always turning it on while torrenting.
Essentially, the CleanWeb feature will block most of the ads, ad trackers, and block connections to phishing and other malware-infected sites. It’s not turned on by default, but you can do that from the ‘settings’ panel.
Of course, we tested how good it performs, and the results were rock-solid. Here you can see how forbes.com looks with and without the CleanWeb feature turned on.
See all the weird blank spaces? That’s where ads are supposed to be.
The built-in ad blocker detected that these were indeed ads, and disabled them.
With WhiteLister, you’ll be able to add exclusions for the VPN connection. You can set up specific apps or websites to ‘not use’ the VPN.
For instance, it’s a good idea to bypass the VPN connection for your online banking, because your bank might block your profile, thinking that it’s hacked.
Essentially, the MultiHop feature is identical to the ‘Double VPN’ servers that NordVPN offers.
By connecting to these servers, your connection will be passed through two VPN instead of one.
This makes your already unhackable connection encrypted twice. It’s useful if you’re really paranoid about your privacy. For instance, it would be useful for journalists, hackers, political activists, protected sources, e.t.c.
Pricing and discounts
Surfshark is one of the cheapest VPN out there, by far. That is if you’re purchasing for at least three years. By purchasing monthly or yearly, the prices aren’t bad, but they aren’t particularly affordable either.
We’ve seen comparable prices only on NordVPN ($2.99 for three years,) and CyberGhost ($2.75 for three years.)
That said, Surfshark goes even lower than that… If you go for the 3-year plan, you’ll get it for pennies - just $1.99 per month.
We’re guessing that Surfshark is so cheap only because it’s new. They NEED to get long-term clients to get the ball rolling. Probably, when they get more popular, they’ll match the prices to NordVPN or CyberGhost.
For Surfshark, you’ll be able to pay with all the most common payment methods.
What’s appealing for some, is that you can also pay with cryptocurrencies, which can make your identity completely anonymous.
Our final verdict: How good is Surfshark VPN?
We mentioned earlier that Surfshark is the ‘hidden gem’ of VPN, and we genuinely believe that.
Based on our tests and research, we think that Surfshark is one of the best options out there…
It’s almost flawless everywhere - it’s fast, reliable, secure, bypasses censorship, works with torrents and Netflix, and offers useful features not found in other VPNs.
But above everything else, it’s dirt cheap. You can get it only for $1.99 per month, which is unseen in the VPN world.
Concluding our Surfshark VPN review, if you’re looking for a cheap, versatile, and almost flawless VPN, Surfshark is probably a good fit for you.