Surfshark review (2020) – An excellent VPN for an excellent price
Surfshark is a relatively new VPN provider that has quickly become a favorite of ours over the past few months. This VPN service started in 2018 and is located on the British Virgin Islands. A quick look into Surfshark shows that their head offices are indeed situated there, but that it’s likely they operate from the United Kingdom, a 5 eyes country.
Surfshark is a VPN with strong encryption and very user-friendly software. Their low prices and user-friendliness make Surfshark a fantastic VPN. Without a doubt, this starter is already on par with long-term champions such as ExpressVPN, NordVPN or CyberGhost.
- Simultaneous connections: No limit
- Operating systems: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux
- Protocols: OpenVPN, IKEv2
- Logging policy: No logs
- Servers: 1040 servers across 61 countries
- Price: From $1.99 a month
- Money back guarantee: 30 days
Speed – How fast is Surfshark?
Having a VPN that doesn’t influence the speed of your internet is essential. VPNs that make sure you maintain a big portion of your download and upload speeds allow you to enjoy all the advantages of a VPN without compromising on internet speeds. However, if a VPN is slow, it becomes unusable. In other words, the speed can make or break a VPN. In order to be able to draw some conclusions about Surfshark’s performance, we’ve extensively researched Surfshark by running multiple speed tests. We also tested the VPN during daily use. You can read about our findings below.
Speed test results Surfshark
These are the speed test results we found when testing Surfshark. Please note that these results always vary depending on your location, internet provider and the time of day. To be able to take these variables into account, we’ve also included a speed test of our own connection without VPN as a benchmark.
Speed without a VPN (Speedtest.net):
These are the speedtest.net results of our own connection without using a VPN.
Speed with a local server (Speedtest.net):
These are the speedtest.net results of our connection when we connected to the fastest Surfshark VPN server closest to our testing location. We did this test to show the speeds a server close to your location might reach (also depending on your data plan of course). The closer the server is to your actual location, the smaller the detour your data has to take in order to be passed through that server, which means the delay in speed will in general be smaller.
Speed with a USA server (Speedtest.net):
These are the speedtest.net results of our connection when we connect to a random Surfshark VPN server in the United States, for example to watch American Netflix.
As you can see, the internet speeds decrease when we’re using Surfshark. Our local Surfshark server has a slightly higher ping and slightly slower download and upload speeds. With the US servers, this difference is quite significant, with the ping peaking and especially the upload speed lowering quite drastically.
Speed during daily use
Because of the test results, especially those of the US server, we had our doubts about Surfshark’s performance when it comes to internet speeds. Surprisingly enough, the VPN proved to function fantastically during everyday use. We tested Surfshark whilst surfing, watching Netflix, downloading torrents and playing online games, and it surprised us every time.
While browsing, we didn’t notice Surfshark’s effect on our internet speeds at all. Websites loaded quickly and emailing, downloading attachments, and browsing social media all went very quickly. We had no issues watching videos on YouTube and Netflix, either. Netflix even appeared to buffer faster than with other VPN providers. This is quite remarkable when you consider the speed test results. Nevertheless, we can confidently say that Surfshark works excellent for streaming (especially Netflix).
Downloading torrents went effortlessly as well. We managed to download relatively large files in no time. What’s more, Surfshark even noticed we were using a torrenting program and automatically switched from a regular VPN server to a specialized P2P server to facilitate the downloading. We found this to be very user-friendly.
Likewise, we didn’t experience any lag while gaming. We used both local and US servers without noticeable delays. When playing an online first person shooter, we noticed no difference in terms of reaction speed, either.
Conclusion speed Surfshark
The results of the speed tests weren’t fantastic, but they weren’t bad either. We experienced no issues during everyday use. In some instances Surfshark even proved faster than some of our regular VPN providers. So, to sum it all up, these are our findings:
- Surfshark’s VPN has great internet speeds during everyday use
- The speed tests show a slight to reasonably strong decrease in both upload and download speeds
- In our opinion, Surfshark is a VPN with above average internet speeds, due to their fantastic performance during everyday use
Safety – How secure is Surfshark?
Internet safety might be the most important factor when choosing a VPN. When it comes to this factor, we’re very happy with Surfshark. Surfshark takes every necessary precaution to guarantee a secure connection. In addition to secure servers with strong encryption protocols, they offer the possibility to connect through two VPN servers at the same time (MultiHop). This means you’ll be even more secure. Surfshark also has a kill switch. Once you’ve activated this and the VPN connection happens to drop, your data won’t be sent online until the connection has been restored. This way, you can still browse and download without having to worry about security or prying eyes.
Furthermore, Surfshark is located on the British Virgin Islands, which is a very safe location for any VPN provider. The only downside is that they appear to be operating from Britain, where privacy laws aren’t as good as you might think. This is why we can’t give Surfshark a perfect score for security. Nevertheless, this VPN is generally safer than most others, especially Free VPNs.
Surfshark exclusively uses the two safest protocols: OpenVPN and IKEv2. Although this means they have a limited choice of protocols, the ones they do offer are very strong. They clearly aren’t willing to compromise when it comes to their users’ security.
Logging and privacy
Surfshark has a ‘no logs’ policy. They have made every effort to require as little personal information of you as possible for your VPN to work. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t need any information. Just like most other providers, they’ll need your email address to create an account and payment information so they can process your payments. More on this later.
Secondly, Surfshark—like most VPNs—requires certain information to monitor their service. For example, they use anonymized information to keep track of how busy their servers are and to see if there are any connection issues. These issues aren’t traceable to a specific user and only concern the general use of their servers and service. In addition, Surfshark don’t appear to be keeping any logs. As mentioned previously, they have a strict ‘no logs’ policy, and we weren’t able to find anything in their regulations that contradicts this.
What information does Surfshark need?
All you need to do to create an account with Surfshark, is provide the VPN with your email address and a password. Therefore, if you make sure neither contain any information about you, you’re good. If you want to remain even more anonymous, we recommend paying through an anonymous service such as Bitcoin. Should you choose to pay with a service like PayPal instead, you will have to share some information about your PayPal account in order to complete the payment.
Conclusion safety Surfshark
We found Surfshark to be a relatively secure VPN provider. The only downsides we ran into are things that pretty much every VPN struggles with. That is why we came to the following conclusions about Surfshark’s safety:
- Surfshark’s head offices are located on the British Virgin Islands, but they appear to operate from Britain, which is not ideal
- Surfshark is a secure VPN with very strong encryption protocols (OpenVPN and IKEv2)
- Surfshark does not keep logs
- You can pay with Bitcoin to create a Surfshark account and you only have to give them your email address and a password
- Surfshark does not keep track of specific user data, but does use anonymized information to determine their server load and spot possible connection issues
Usability – How user-friendly is Surfshark?
Surfshark excels at user-friendliness. Their software is very easy to use, since it has a couple of super convenient options. On top of that, their customer service is very easy to reach should you need help with anything after all.
The Surfshark website
The Surfshark website reminds us a little of that of NordVPN. The website is well-organized, not too busy, and all available information is readily available. Besides key information such as features and pricing in the top bar, you can find a link to the FAQ in the footer. The FAQ section is very clearly organized as well. Surfshark is a provider that focuses entirely on getting important information across to their readers and users as effectively as possible.
For this purpose, they’ve kept the ‘My Account’ section of the website as simple as possible. There are a couple of buttons for downloading software for specific devices and operating systems. You can also see when your subscription will end, and there’s a button for changing your password and one for logging out. As a result, managing your Surfshark account is very easy to do.
The installing procedure for Surfshark is incredibly easy and straightforward. On mobile devices, you can download the VPN app from the App Store or Google Play. On Mac or PC, simply click the relevant icon on the website.
The actual installation goes like this:
- Choose a subscription and go through the steps of the ordering procedure
- Log in to the Surfshark website
- Click on the icon of your operating system
- Open the .exe file you downloaded
- Go through the steps of the installation wizard
- Open the Surfshark software by clicking on the hyperlink
- Log in with the login information you created for your account
- If you want, select a server, then enable Surfshark
Surfshark’s appearance and ease of use
The appearance and ease of use of Surfshark’s software might be one of the best features of this VPN. Once you’ve signed in, you won’t be overwhelmed by countless options and settings. Instead, you’re only shown those things that matter to the average VPN user. All options and settings include a clear description and all menus are easy to navigate.
Surfshark doesn’t require you to manually select the right server for whatever you plan on doing online. Simply connect to Surfshark’s VPN and it will automatically recognize when you’re about to download a torrent, for example. In this case, you won’t have to manually select a P2P server, as the program will do it for you. Moreover, all American servers appear to work with Netflix, and you can even effortlessly set up a double VPN tunnel. All these separate elements make Surfshark a very well-performing and user-friendly VPN.
Surfshark and Linux
Surfshark is also available for Linux users. Specifically, the terminal app is available to Ubuntu and Debian users. Unfortunately, this isn’t nearly as many as some competitors such as NordVPN and ExpressVPN have. Users of other distros can make use of manual OpenVPN servers, however. Below you can read a short summary of our experience with using SurfShark on a Debian system.
The number of servers available to Linux users is somewhat limited compared to Surfshark’s overall server network. Rather than the 1040+ servers, Linux users have access to about 102 servers spread across 61 countries. Unfortunately, the quality of your connection depends quite strongly on which server you select. Some of Surfshark’s servers can compete with the best VPN-providers out there. Other ones barely manage to achieve a quarter of your overall internet speed. As such, be sure to run a quick speed test when you connect to a new server to check if you have one of the good ones.
More worryingly though, Linux users tend to suffer from DNS leaks or transparent proxies while connected to Surfshark. This problem can be resolved if you are particularly savvy with Linux, or with the help of customer service. Nevertheless, the problem shouldn’t be occurring in the first place.
The user-friendliness, however, is fine. The installation is a piece of cake and the selection of commands you have to learn is limited and intuitive. Surfshark also includes a number of neat extra features, such as an automated selection of the best available server, a kill switch, multi-hop, and the ability to easily switch between UDP and TCP servers. Unfortunately, these extra features do not make up for the DNS leaks, transparent proxies, or uneven quality of available servers. Moreover, quite often, these features aren’t even available. Because of all these negatives SurfShark is not in our list of the best VPN’s for Linux.
Pricing and methods of payment
Surfshark is very reasonably priced. It’s one of the cheapest options around. As with most other VPNs, you receive a discount when you subscribe for a longer period of time. A monthly subscription costs $11.95 per month, a 1-year subscription costs $5.99 per month, and a 2-year subscription costs only $1.99 per month. On their website, these prices are also available in euros, AUS/CAN dollars, Chinese yuan, and British pounds.
No matter which subscription you get, Surfshark offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, and you can use the subscription on an unlimited number of devices. Payment methods include the following options:
- Credit card (Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover Card)
- Google Pay
- Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies (using CoinGate or CoinPayments)
- Other, local payment options
Surfshark has an excellent customer service. When we tried the chat function on their website, we were brought in touch with and assisted by an actual employee within the space of a minute. Our problem was that we weren’t able to watch American Netflix at first, but customer service was able to help us fix this in no time. We also appreciated the fact that we were talking to a real person. We didn’t receive any automated responses from a bot. This is a relief compared to the customer service at some other VPNs.
Conclusion usability Surfshark
Based on our experiences with Surfshark, we arrived at the following conclusions:
- Surfshark is a highly user-friendly VPN
- Surfshark’s software is intuitive and easy to understand
- Creating and managing an account is very straightforward
- Installing Surfshark’s software is easy
- Surfshark’s customer service is quick to respond and manned by actual humans
- Surfshark is one of the cheapest VPN providers and offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on all their subscriptions
Server network Surfshark
Surfshark has an extensive server network: they have 1040 servers across 61 countries and locations. This is very convenient for bypassing geo blocks. In most countries, they have multiple servers. Especially the US servers are numerous, most likely to ensure Netflix keeps working for this country.
Furthermore, all of Surfshark’s servers are P2P friendly. This means you won’t have to select a special P2P server if you want to download torrents, for instance. Furthermore, Surfshark gives you the option of connecting to two VPN servers at once (MultiHop). Your data will be sent through not one, but two VPN servers. This increases your online security and anonymity. Not all of Surfshark’s servers support this. Instead, there are thirteen pre-selected combinations of two servers you can use. Three of these have a U.S. server as the exit server. This is very useful for unblocking a lot of geo-restricted content, such as the U.S. version of Netflix, while being extra safe.
Number of servers and locations
Surfshark has 1040 servers across 61 locations. These locations are spread out over the following countries:
|Bosnia and Herzegovina|
|United Arab Emirates|
Dedicated IP address
So far, Surfshark doesn’t offer the possibility to request a dedicated IP address. However, you’ll usually connect to the same server and same IP address when choosing a specific server. But this isn’t always the case: if you select the ‘optimal location’ option, chances are you’ll get a different server each time. That’s because Surfshark looks at the amount of traffic on various servers and selects the server that works best at that moment.
With a recent update, however, Surfshark has added some servers with a ‘static’ IP-address. This means the IP-address of these servers will always be the same. Though we wouldn’t recommend using them as of this moment, because they seem to be shared and not dedicated. However, in theory you could use these servers to get access to websites and apps which block you if you log in from a different IP address than you normally do, while still enjoying some added protection, because of Surfshark’s VPN tunnel and encryption. However, we have not tested ourselves whether this actually works well, so we can’t guarantee this is a viable and good way to get access to these services.
Conclusion server network Surfshark
These are the conclusions we arrived at regarding Surfshark’s server network and locations:
- Surfshark has an excellent server network of 1040 servers across 61 locations
- There is a multitude of American servers and all appear to work with Netflix
- Surfshark has special P2P servers, which you are connected to automatically
- It’s possible to send your data through two VPN servers at the same time
In addition to the standard possibilities, Surfshark also offers a number of useful extra features. For instance, Surfshark has an optional kill switch, the possibility of connecting through two VPN servers at the same time (they call this MultiHop), a Whitelister that allows you to visit certain websites or apps without going through the VPN first, and a CleanWeb option that blocks ads, trackers and malware. On top of that, both Netflix and torrents work well with Surfshark.
MultiHop, Whitelister and CleanWeb
All three of these Surfshark features functioned properly when we tried them. CleanWeb was able to block ads that managed to slip even past our regular adblockers. The MultiHop option provides some additional security, but does have negative impact on your internet speeds. After all, your traffic has to go through two VPN servers instead of one. The Whitelister for apps and websites allows you to connect to specific apps and websites you trust using your own IP address instead of that of the VPN server. This could definitely prove convenient in some situations.
On top of that, Surfshark has recently added two new features: HackLock and BlindSearch. HackLock is an option you can use that will notify you when your email or passwords might be in danger of being compromised. BlindSearch is Surfshark’s answer to the anonymous search engine DuckDuckGo. However, both HackLock and BlindSearch are still in Beta.
Surfshark and Netflix
Surfshark aims to unblock Netflix for all its users. During our tests, all US servers appeared to work with Netflix. Aside from that, Surfshark also allows you to access the content of other local versions of Netflix. Surfshark actively focuses on making the libraries of fifteen countries available to their users. These countries are: the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Italy, India, Turkey, Brazil, Singapore, and Norway.
If you use a different server location to visit Netflix, you’ll automatically be sent on to the American (US) version of Netflix. On their website, Surfshark mentions that you can ask them about any Netflix library you’d like to access, but isn’t on their list. They might be able to unlock it for you.
In case you still can’t reach Netflix with this clever system, don’t hesitate to contact Surfshark. Their customer support live chat works effectively and can usually help. They might give you advice about which server to choose or try to solve the issue from their side. Usually, they’re able to help you out in a few minutes. In short, Surfshark is very suitable for streaming and Netflix.
Surfshark and torrents
Surfshark has specialized P2P servers that keep you extra secure while downloading torrents. You don’t have to manually select these servers: they are automatically activated when you open a torrenting program. The VPN server will recognize the P2P traffic and connect you to a P2P server. We even suspect it might automatically connect you via MultiHop servers. This means added protection against prying eyes.
Conclusion options Surfshark
- Surfshark offers various features that block ads, whitelist websites and offer increased levels of security
- Both US servers and servers of other countries worked with Netflix
- You can download torrents with Surfshark safely and easily
- Surfshark for Linux isn’t nearly as good as the Windows version
Conclusion – Our experience with Surfshark
|Very easy to use||Software only available in English|
|Easy to install||No option to manually select a server|
|Only secure protocols available and no logs||The difference in speeds between servers can be quite large|
|Netflix works in all countries|
|Downloading torrents is allowed|
|Excellent speed during regular internet use|
|Useful extra features such as AdBlocker and Whitelister|
|Great customer service|
As far as we’re concerned, Surfshark is an excellent VPN provider that’s on par with today’s largest and most popular VPNs. Its low prices, accessible software and useful extra features prompted us to place Surfshark high in our rankings.