Surfshark Review: How is the VPN?
Read on for our close-up look at Surfshark, one of the most versatile VPNs out there.
What We Like
- Netflix and torrenting access: We loved cozying up on the couch to stream TV and movies as the weather cooled down, and Surfshark even let us watch Netflix in other countries. This instantly expanded our entertainment options.
- Versatile and robust VPN connections: Surfshark offers a host of VPN protocols, from OpenVPN and WireGuard, to IKEv2 and IPSec.
- Split tunneling: When we needed to access a private server from work, we could do so while connected to Surfshark via a public Wi-Fi network.
What We Don't Like
- Static IP address: We received the same IP address every time we connected to Surfshark. This makes it easier for hackers to track us online.
- Based in the Netherlands: The Netherlands has privacy-friendly data retention laws, but it's under Nine Eyes jurisdiction, which means the government can compel Surfshark to share customer information when necessary.
Bottom LineIf you love watching movies and TV shows but want to keep your web traffic hidden, Surfshark is the VPN for you. We could watch Netflix, the BBC, HBO, Hulu, and other streaming services while connected, and the speeds weren't bad, either.
Much like actual surfing, surfing the web can be dangerous, but for vastly different reasons. Between cookies, hacking, and data breaches, the safest way to surf online is privately, ideally through a VPN like Surfshark. With more than 3,200 private servers around the world, Surfshark seems like a good option to encrypt our web traffic, but we never judge a VPN by its cover. Instead, we tested out Surfshark, and here’s what we thought.
|Upload speed difference||9%|
|Download speed difference||31%|
|DNS leak test||Passed|
Surfshark is a young company, having been established in 2018. However, it has grown tremendously over the last four years.
Now, Surfshark has recently moved its headquarters to the Netherlands, which is generally privacy-friendly. The country doesn’t oblige companies to retain data from its users, which enables Surfshark to have a “zero-log” policy. More on that later, but for quick reference, Surfshark’s “zero-log” policy means that it doesn’t store the IP addresses and browsing data of its users.
On the flipside, though, the Netherlands is a member of the Nine Eyes international alliance. Companies based in member-countries of the Nine Eyes, as well as those under the jurisdiction of the larger 14 Eyes alliance, can be compelled by the government to share customer information in certain court-approved cases (for instance, for matters of criminal investigation or national security). That would be concerning, if it weren’t for Surfshark’s “zero-log” policy. Since it doesn’t log any browsing data, it has nothing to share with the government in the first place, so we still trust Surfshark.
Okay, now let’s break down the actual VPN (which stands for virtual private network, if you didn’t already know).
Of course, Surfshark hid our IP addresses and web activity, which we proved with DNS and WebRTC leak tests below. But aside from that, Surfshark had four main features that made us giddy:
- Torrenting: Despite the ever-expanding list of available streaming services, sometimes we get in a mood to watch a movie that’s not available on Hulu, Disney Plus or any of the like. In those instances, we like to torrent files, which we could do with Surfshark running. Of course, we don’t advocate for illegal torrenting, but for some legal torrenting fun, connect to Surfshark beforehand.
- Netflix: Every once in a while, we want to hop over to watch Netflix on a U.K. server. With Surfshark, we could switch to Netflix in different countries, which definitely came in handy when we needed to finish “The Good Place” (which we wouldn’t dare spoil for you).
- Kill switch: One time when we were connected to Surfshark, a woman bumped into us, causing us to accidentally disconnect from the VPN. Fortunately, it didn’t expose our web traffic. Instead, Surfshark’s kill switch kicked in, closing all of our web browsers automatically. Talk about fast-acting!
- Split tunneling: In a feature Surfshark calls Whitelister, we connected to public and private networks simultaneously. This saved us much-needed bandwidth as we watched Youtube while still connected to a server from work.
- Surfshark One: Surfshark One is an add-on service that is sort of an all-for-one digital security solution. It includes access to Surfshark’s antivirus software, identity monitoring service, and secure search engine. Surfshark One costs $1.49 a month if you bundle it with any VPN subscription. The total cost of a two-year VPN and Surfshark One subscription is only $95.52.
How Fast Is Surfshark?
If you connect to a VPN, you can expect slower speeds than usual, as your web traffic has to go through an encrypted server in addition to the public network’s server.
That’s normal, but it doesn’t mean we don’t want to see fast speeds while connected, which is why we tested out Surfshark on our personal hotspots from a 2011 Macbook Pro in Brooklyn, connecting to a New York server, as well as a Windows 10 Acer Aspire 5 from the Philippines, connecting to the country’s server.
As you can see from the below results, our speeds performed much better on the Mac than on the Windows computer, which was a bit lackluster.
However, speed is determined by a large number of factors, including your distance to the server, device make and model, operating system, browser type, and more, so take our speed tests with a grain of salt.
|Devices tested on||MacBook Pro 2011||Acer Aspire 5 (Windows 10)|
|Ping without VPN (in ms)||54||7|
|Ping with VPN (in ms)||53||199|
|Macbook download speed without VPN (in mbps)||16.21||23.69|
|Download speed with VPN (in mbps)||11.87||19.61|
|Download speed difference||31%||17%|
|Upload speed without VPN (in mbps)||22.01||24.09|
|Upload speed with VPN (in mbps)||24||10.58|
|Upload speed difference||9%||56%|
How Secure Is Surfshark?
If your VPN isn’t taking good care of your data, you may be experiencing a “the call is coming from inside the house” situation. But have no fear: we walked around this proverbial house checking under every bed frame, and here’s what we came out with.
Using outdated encrypted methods is kind of like using an old lock on a safe; sure, it’s better than nothing, but we want better protection for our valuables. So, after some digging, we found that Surfshark encrypted our information using AES 256-bit, which is what we expect from VPNs in 2022.
On top of that, Surfshark encrypted our traffic through multiple servers, hiding our web traffic even more. This isn’t usually the case for even the best VPNs on the market, so we feel good about Surfshark protecting our web activity.
- What Surfshark logs: Surfshark kept our account information like our email addresses, our passwords, although they were encrypted, billing information and order history, diagnostic reports, which we opted out of, as well as anonymized information from its website like what pages we visited and how long we stayed there. Also, it kept our IP addresses and unique device identifiers, but only from its website as opposed to the actual VPN app. Like most companies, Surfshark collected cookies, which we could opt out of, as well.
- What Surfshark doesn’t log: Surfshark didn’t keep our IP addresses, session information, browsing history, the times we connected, the amount of bandwidth we used while connected to the VPN, our network traffic, etc.
Compared to other VPNs we’ve tested, Surfshark keeps the minimal amount of data necessary to run its service, making it a great choice for privacy.
|Data||Does Surfshark log it?|
|User’s email address||Yes|
|Payment data||Yes, unless you use anonymous payment methods such as cryptocurrency|
DNS Leak Tests
A DNS is a domain name server, meaning, the common name that comes with an IP address; think Security.Org (our domain name) as opposed to 126.96.36.199, one of our website’s IP addresses.
Of course, if a VPN isn’t hiding our DNS when connected, something is off, which is why we tested it out. Fortunately for us, the test showed a different IP address when connected versus not connected. That means Surfshark hid our web activity when we tested it out on both our Mac and Windows computers. Checkmate!
WebRTC Leak Tests
Finally, we also performed a WebRTC leak test using Surfshark. A little background info: whenever we video chat with friends, transfer files, or live stream Netflix, our computers use something called WebRTC, which is basically a collection of technologies that let web browsers communicate directly with each other as opposed to going through a middle-man server.
Sure, this creates faster speeds and rids us of excessive lag, but it also requires the two devices to know each other’s private IP address; no thank you. The question remained: did Surfshark leak our private IP addresses?
The short answer is: no, it didn’t. Even while we chatted on video, Surfshark hid our real IP addresses. So as far as privacy and security are concerned, Surfshark is at the top of its game.
Tip: Firefox, Opera, Chrome, and Microsoft Edge all default to WebRTC, making them more vulnerable to WebRTC leaks. If you’re streaming content, video chatting or transferring files on any of these browsers, make sure to connect to a VPN beforehand.
Surfshark Pricing Overview
After our seven-day free trial with Surfshark ended, we had several options when it came to paid subscriptions. In essence, all subscriptions gave us the same features, like being able to connect unlimited devices to Surfshark. The only thing that differs between the subscriptions is its term lengths, namely one month, one year, or two years.
|Term length||Monthly price||Monthly price with Surfshark One||Annual price||Total amount billed||Annual price after first billing period||Savings|
Surfshark’s monthly rate is notably more expensive than NordVPN’s pricing, but if you plan to sign a longer subscription, you’ll eventually get more value from Surfshark.
For example, NordVPN’s two-year plan costs about $3.99 a month, while Surfshark’s costs $2.49. That means in two years, you’ll save nearly $30 if you go with Surfshark rather than NordVPN. Of course, there are other factors like features and performance, but price-wise, Surfshark comes out on top. Compare Surfshark vs. NordVPN VPN connections further.
FYI: Students registered with Student Beans can get 15 percent off a Surfshark subscription. We recommend signing up for two years to get the lowest rates.
With prices as low as $2.49 a month for its two-year package, Surfshark isn’t only secure; it’s also about as cheap as VPNs come. For more information, read our Surfshark subscription page, or read about Surfshark deals and Surfshark Black Friday deals. For Black Friday last year, Surfshark added three months to its 24-month subscriptions at no added cost, bringing down the monthly cost to $2.21 per month.
We’d recommend Surfshark if you want…
- A strict logging policy
- Netflix and torrenting
- VPN service with optional antivirus, identity monitoring, and secure browser
But Surfshark is not for you if any of the following are deal-breakers…
- Slow speeds on Windows
- Same IP address every time you log on
Surf’s up! We’re not done riding the wave of Surfshark, so sit back, relax and enjoy the answers to our most frequently asked questions.
Is the Surfshark VPN any good?
Surfshark is a very good VPN and is among one of the best VPN services, with AES-256 bit encryption, a kill switch, split tunneling, Netflix, and torrenting access, plus a headquarters outside of the Five Eyes alliance. And with more than 3,200 VPN servers in 65 countries, it can work for users around the world with fast speeds, particularly on Macs.
Is Surfshark better than NordVPN?
Surfshark is not better than NordVPN. Both VPNs include thousands of servers in over 60 countries each, but NordVPN has about 2,000 more servers overall. Also, both VPNs include split tunneling, torrenting and Netflix access, kill switches, AES-256 encryption, static IP addresses, and 30-day money-back guarantees, but NordVPN has better mobile apps on both iOS and Android than the Surfshark app on either operating system. If you want a better Android app and browser extensions, choose NordVPN over Surfshark.
Is Surfshark a Chinese company?
Surfshark is not a Chinese company nor a company based in Hong Kong. Rather, its parent company, Surfshark Ltd., is based in the Netherlands and was founded in 2018.
Is Surfshark better than ExpressVPN?
They’re close, but ultimately, Surfshark is better than ExpressVPN. Surfshark is more user-friendly, having responsive and intuitively-designed apps, easy-to-use features such as double VPN, and a much lower price range. Surfshark plans cost as low as $2.49 per month, whereas ExpressVPN costs at least $6.67 per month even with discounts.